By Alex Lasry
Our public employees across Wisconsin have been through hell during this pandemic. Over and over again, they have had to put their personal safety on the line in order to make sure the world kept moving. Public servants ranging from teachers, to health care workers, to postal workers, to sanitation workers have all had to show up every day even when many of us were told to stay home.
Across Wisconsin, we have asked them to endure enormous risk, mostly without better pay, better hours, or even additional safety precautions. In the face of these risks, they have had very little to no power to negotiate for better conditions because 10 years ago, former Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature took away virtually all of their collective bargaining rights by passing Act 10.
Act 10 was a massive power grab by the Republicans that was specifically designed to break up unions and take rights away from workers. Walker was infamously caught on tape describing Act 10 as his plan to ‘divide and conquer’ Wisconsin.
Walker’s plan largely worked, driving down the unionized workforce in Wisconsin. In 2010, before Act 10, 14.2% of all Wisconsin employees belonged to a union. As of 2020, that number shrunk to 8.7%, now below the national average. This has resulted in stagnating and declining wages, benefits, and working conditions.
Unions make our state better and improve the lives of all working people. If we want to truly lift up our working class, that comes from collectively bargaining for pay increases, fair hours, better working conditions, and better benefits.
I was excited to see Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature unveil new plans to repeal Act 10 and restore collective bargaining rights for our public workers. We are at a tipping point, and if we don’t prioritize our people over profits, we are not going to be able to find skilled workers for these essential jobs. We must pay people what they are worth, and that starts with allowing them to collectively bargain.
I commend the Democrats in the State Legislature for bringing this issue up again and fighting for workers’ rights. We know that repairing the damage from Act 10 has been, and will continue to be an uphill battle, but it is a battle worth fighting. We need to show Wisconsinites – especially frontline workers – that we value them.
We need a true partner for Sen. Tammy Baldwin who will fight for your best interest every day. In the United States Senate, I want to be the voice of the working people of Wisconsin.