Sean Maher, a navy veteran, began his career like generations of Milwaukee workers –in a metal fabrication factory. In 1998, the rapid collapse of manufacturing led him to the local Laborers Union. Large infrastructure projects, including Miller Park baseball stadium and the Oak Creek Power Plant, provided 10 years of steady employment and the opportunity to hone his skills. In 2009, as the national economy went into a deep recession, construction work in Milwaukee took a nosedive. For over a year, Sean was laid off.
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I was walking down North 37th Street in Milwaukee, in the shadow of the abandoned AO Smith manufacturing plant (that once provided jobs to 10,000 people in this neighborhood). I came across a young couple carrying an infant. They asked if I could help them find their polling place. They had never voted before and had registration identification in hand. They had been walking for half an hour, but were unsure of the exact address. I could do better than point them in the right direction. Since they lived in the neighborhood we were canvassing, I knew exactly where they should vote. I helped them into our van and drove then to the polling place. When we got there, the lines were so long that it took them nearly an hour to vote. But nothing deterred them.