Bring Their Concerns
To State Capitol
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.
ISSUES CLOSE TO HOME
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
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
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
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
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,
UE News - 03/01