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Wisconsin Members
Bring Their Concerns
To State Capitol


Delegation at UE Wisconsin Political Action Day ...

Representing Wisconsin UE members in Madison on March 7 were Bob Granum, Bea Hilgenberg, Joni Anderson, Shirley Harrison (front), Marilyn Petlewski, Laverne Ollison (front), JoAnn Goodman, Yvonne Dinkins, Flora Beauchamp (front) and Anna Fisher.

Wisconsin legislators used to professional lobbyists who peddle a "profits above all" line got an altogether different kind of message when rank-and-file UE members spent March 7 in the state capitol. They visited the offices of all 132 representatives and senators, and the governor’s office as well.

The UE members met directly with a few representatives and senators who happened to be in their offices, making a particular effort to see those who represented their own districts.

Issues raised by the union included two with a direct impact on UE members and others of concern to all working people.

In each office, delegates presented copies of a UE leaflet on Wisconsin issues and took the time to explain why these issues are of concern to union members.


Two of those issues had a special connection. UE members advocated passage of Senate Bill 17, which would move the claims of workers against bankrupt companies to the front of the line. Current Wisconsin law gives banks first call on company’s assets. When Milwaukee-based Steeltech Corp. declared bankruptcy and shut down in October 1999, more than 40 UE members were owed back pay and vacation pay in excess of $100,000.

Bob Granum of Local 1111 testified on the wage-lien bill on behalf of UE at a Senate committee hearing in February. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

The union members also pressed for action on Wisconsin’s nursing home crisis. With our senior population rapidly increasing, UE argued, it’s time for the legislature to recognize that quality care cannot be provided with the current sub-poverty levels of worker wages and benefits. The recent 5 percent state wage supplement for CNAs is a start, but an immediate, substantial, and permanent state boost for all nursing home workers is needed. The legislature should craft a comprehensive plan to provide the funding needed.

UE Local 1193, which represents workers at St. Mary’s Nursing Home, sent four delegates.


The other issues addressed by the UE rank-and-file lobbyists were:

  • The "Impartial Justice" bill, which would publicly finance candidates for the Supreme Court and drastically reduce the amount of money that candidates could raise from wealthy supporters. Passage of the "Impartial Justice" bill would help limit the corrupting influence of large financial donations to the political campaigns of Supreme Court members and candidates.

  • Immediate action to address the worsening health care crisis in Wisconsin, including provision of prescription medication at reasonable prices. Lawmakers also need to monitor the financial condition of the low-income BadgerCare program, UE says. With more than 75,000 residents depending on this program, action is needed now to prevent a funding shortfall.

  • Action to defend public education. UE argues that the hodge-podge education funding method in Wisconsin needs to be simplified, with an emphasis placed on increasing the number and compensation of teachers and other school support staff, improving school infrastructure, and reducing class size. Quick-fix schemes such as privatization and vouchers have no place in any serious discussion of solving some of our most pressing education problems.

  • Action on the energy crisis, including steps to provide home heating assistance for working families and seniors ripped-off by the energy monopolies. And for the long-term health of Wisconsin, lawmakers should un-plug reckless schemes to de-regulate the electricity industry, the union maintains.

  • It’s time for the legislature to move immediately to raise the minimum wage for the lowest paid working families in Wisconsin.

  • The legislature should take immediate action to save Wisconsin manufacturing jobs, including an investigation of the destruction of the state’s manufacturing base and brainstorm proposals and initiatives to help protect and retain family-supporting jobs. Also, UE says, the legislature should investigate and monitor Wisconsin’s "Economic Development" program.


Participants agreed it was an effective day — and discussed ways of following up in the fall to see how legislators voted on our issues.

The issues flyer was created by the UE NEWS Dept. and Chris Townsend, the union’s political action director, based on input from UE members in Wisconsin.

With District 11 planning on sending a large delegation to the national UE Political Action Conference in Washington March 25-28, the March 7 Wisconsin Political Action Day was scaled down. Ten members from four locals, along with District Pres. Carl Rosen, took part.

They were: Local 1107, Joni Anderson, Anna Fisher, Bea Hilgenberg; Local 1111, Bob Granum, Marilyn Petlewski; Local 1135, Shirley Harrison; Local 1193, Flora Beauchamp, Yvonne Dinkins, JoAnn Goodman, Laverne Ollison.

UE News - 03/01

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