PHOTOS: In Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, Teachers and Others Arrested for Singing

Photo by @RWwatchMA on Twitter

For three days straight, police have made multiple arrests in Wisconsin’s state Capitol.

Their crime? Singing.

Well, more specifically, their alleged crime is violating a new rule in the Capitol requiring permits for groups of 20 or more. The rule was passed in the wake of the enormous worker uprising in Wisconsin in 2011 that included massive gatherings in the state Capitol.

A Wisconsin judge ruled on July 8 that the demonstrators must acquire a permit before bringing a group of more than 20 people into the capitol for a protest.

Police have delivered daily warnings to the Solidarity Sing-Along members since the 11th, but Wednesday was the first day they actually made good on their threats. However, Wednesday’s arrests appear to have only angered the group, and they returned Thursday over 100 strong.

As of Thursday, the arrest count was 29. Today, Friday, arrests are continuing this afternoon.

“First arrest in #ourhouse today: a kindergarten teacher,” tweets @SaraBlackthorne.

Other musical groups gathering outside of the Capitol in solidarity.

via @ScottWalkerWatch on Twitter

“In @GovWalker’s Wisconsin,” tweeted @OneWisconsinNow, “out-of-state donors IN, free speech OUT.”


“Walker is afraid of singers,” reads one sign.

Photo by @leslieamsterdam on Twitter

“She looks like a hardened criminal,” @polymath22 notes sarcastically.

Finally, let’s note that not all police officers are on board with the arrests.

Photo via @leslieamsterdam on Twitter

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Michigan Senate Republicans Prove That, Actually, They Love Intrusive Government Regulation

Down with big government, cry Michigan Republicans!

Except when it comes to workers’ rights.

Yesterday the Michigan Senate voted 25-13 to pass a sick leave “preemption bill,” SB 173, which bans cities and towns from passing their own laws regarding earned sick leave. 25 Republicans voted in favor, while all 12 Democrats and one Republican (Sen. Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights) voted against.

Now, this might seem like a strange law for Michigan to pass, since no city or town in Michigan has a sick leave ordinance on the books, and no city or town in Michigan is currently considering such an ordinance.

But this isn’t about Michigan. This is about ALEC and its nationwide efforts to quash the momentum behind paid sick days, using politicians like bill sponsor Sen. Mark Jansen (R-Grand Rapids) merely as delivery systems.

This is a law modeled after one Gov. Scott Walker passed in Wisconsin in May 2011, which overrode the will of Milwaukee voters who had overwhelmingly passed a paid sick days ordinance three years earlier.

At the ALEC national conference in 2011, attendees were given copies of Walker’s paid sick days preemption law. As PRWatch blogger Brendan Fischer describes, legislators were also handed a “target list” and “a map of state and local paid sick leave policies prepared by ALEC member the National Restaurant Association.”

This law keeping cities and towns from making their own decisions on this issue makes no sense for Michigan. Michigan just happens to be on a list of boxes for ALEC to check, so they can continue a status quo where workers show up to work sick, or get fired for taking care of a sick child, simply because they have no other financial option.

Having passed the Senate, SB 173 is now on a fast track through the House. Seems like legislators can be super efficient when they want to restrict workers’ rights, and when ALEC has already written out a bill for them.

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Michigan Moms and Workers vs. Restaurant Industry and ALEC

Lawmakers in Michigan are still pushing a bill that would keep cities and towns from making their own decisions about paid sick days laws. We call them “preemption bills” – restaurant lobbyists and their allies call it the “kill shot” to paid sick days.

The bills in the House and Senate are ALEC model bills, inspired by none other than Wisconsin union-buster Gov. Scott Walker. Quick story: In early 2011, Walker pushed and passed a preemption law in Wisconsin, completely invalidating the will of Milwaukee voters who had just passed a sick days ordinance.

The restaurant lobby was so excited that they handed out copies of the bill to attendees of ALEC’s August 2011 meeting.

And, as if by magic, preemption bills have been introduced in Michigan, Mississippi, Washington, Arizona, Indiana, and Oklahoma. Such laws are already on the books in Wisconsin and Louisiana. Just this week, a preemption bill passed both houses of the Florida legislature. Textbook ALEC.

In Michigan, along with statewide mothers’ organization Mothering Justice, Working America delivered petitions signed by over 2,500 Michiganders to the Michigan Restaurant Association and the state legislature.

All workers deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days, so that not another person has to make their choice between going to work sick and not making rent, or not being able to eat, or not being able to care for their child.

But even the threat of workers in a few cities and towns having this basic right has the restaurant lobby and ALEC running scared, using their politician pawns to introduce ridiculously undemocratic preemption bills that won’t create a single job. Since when did these “small-government” obsessives get into the business of telling cities and towns how to conduct their business?

Join us. Tell the Michigan legislature to stand with workers, mothers, and democracy – not ALEC and the restaurant lobby.

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When It Comes to Sick Days, Michigan Republicans Love Big Intrusive Government

When someone tries to raise the minimum wage, improve our health care system, or generally try to fix anything, a chorus of conservative anti-worker bigwigs cries foul about big government intruding in their lives.

But when a state passes a law to preempt cities and towns from making their own decisions about allowing workers to earn sick days, those same voices are silent.

Case in point: Michigan.

Legislation recently approved by committees in the Republican-controlled House and Senate would prohibit counties, townships and cities from adopting policies that requires employers to provide paid or unpaid leave not required under federal or state law.

The bill is HB 4249 in the House, sponsored by Rep. Earl Poleski (R-Jackson), and SB 173 in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Mark Jansen (R-Grand Rapids). Both bills have been passed by their respective committees.

If you look closely at the bills, you’ll notice they are startlingly similar to bills introduced in Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Washington.

Why? You guessed it: it’s an ALEC model bill!

Not only is it an ALEC bill, it’s an ALEC bill inspired by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who pushed and passed his own sick leave preemption bill in May 2011. It was one of his first acts as governor, and it overrode a sick leave ordinance that Milwaukee had passed overwhelmingly in 2008.

70 percent of Milwaukee voters want the policy? “Who cares?” says the preemption bill. It’s the very definition of big government intruding on local control that so many conservatives claim to hate.

PRWatch blogger Brendan Fischer describes what happened next:

Meeting attendees were given complete copies of Wisconsin’s 2011 Senate Bill 23 (now Wisconsin Act 16) as a model for state override. ALEC’s Labor and Business Regulation Subcommittee at the time was co-chaired by YUM! Brands, Inc., which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

Legislators attending the Labor and Business Regulation Subcommittee meeting were also handed a target list and map of state and local paid sick leave policies prepared by ALEC member the National Restaurant Association.

As one Republican operative put it, these bills “deliver the kills shot” to efforts to allow workers to earn sick days. In addition to Wisconsin, such laws are already on the books in Louisiana and Mississippi.

We’re fighting back in Michigan, where we’ve sent almost 18,000 messages to state lawmakers. Join us: Tell the Michigan legislature to stand with the people, not ALEC.

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Gov. Walker Refuses Job Creation Measure as Wisconsin Slips to 44th in Growth

We live in a crazy, ever-changing world, but some things don’t change.

It may be 2013, but Scott Walker is still a terrible governor, and Wisconsin is still suffering under his policies.

Even as new numbers showed the national unemployment rate slipping in February 2013, those same numbers showed Wisconsin heading in the completely wrong direction. Wisconsin is now ranked 44 out of 50 in job growth, and is being outpaced by all of its neighbors:

The new numbers, based on the most accurate current measures available, show Wisconsin with an estimated 2,790,000 non-farm positions as of January 2013 — up 44,600 jobs or 1.6 percent since January 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker took office.

By comparison, Indiana ranked No. 9 with a 3.8 percent job growth rate over the past two years; Minnesota was No. 10 with 3.7 percent growth; Michigan was No. 12 at 3.6 percent; Iowa was No. 24 at 2.9 percent and Illinois No. 30 at 2.3 percent job growth.

Overall unemployment in Wisconsin also rose in January 2013 from 6.7 to 7 percent (February data has not yet been released). The state gained 12,400 private-sector jobs by lost about 10,600 public sector jobs, with a net gain of only 1,800.

Gov. Walker promised during the 2010 campaign to create 250,000 new jobs during his first term. As of January 2013, there has been a net gain of 44,600 jobs, or less than 18 percent of that promise.

What’s worse is that Walker has walked away from Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which would allow many of Wisconsin’s 235,000 uninsured adults to afford health care. In addition to making a political point on the backs of Wisconsin’s uninsured, Walker also passed up the opportunity to create about 10,500 new health care jobs, and increase economic activity by $1.3 billion.

But no worries, everybody. Even with the sour jobs numbers and his signature union-busting achievement under legal assail, Gov. Walker is still thinking about his future as a possible presidential candidate.

To Walker, the glass is 18 percent full, not 18 percent empty.


Photo by keegstra on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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It’s Far From Over: Scott Walker Resumes the Republican War on Voting Rights

Did you think voter suppression would end on Election Day? Think again. The corporate-backed Republican-led war on our voting rights is still chugging.

None other than Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced on Monday that he would like to end the state’s same-day registration law:

Wisconsin is one of nine states that allow voters to register at their polling place on the day of the election, and that’s often credited with helping make Wisconsin’s voting rate one of the highest in the country. Since the Nov. 6 election, both Walker and incoming Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) have said they’re considering ending the practice, which goes back to 1976 in the state.

And what reason would Gov. Walker, who also pushed through a voter suppression ID law in 2010, have for ending the successful practice of same-day registration?

“States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems because the vast majority of their states have poll workers who are wonderful volunteers, who work 13-hour days and who in most cases are retirees,” Walker said at the library, responding to a question from an audience member about election safeguards. “It’s difficult for them to handle the volume of people who come at the last minute. It’d be much better if registration was done in advance of election day. It’d be easier for our clerks to handle that. All that needs to be done.”

So. Gov. Walker is saying that because he feels bad for the overworked poll workers many of whom are retirees, no one should be able to register to vote at the polls.

Excuse us for our disbelief that Gov. Walker supports this policy because he’s interested in helping workers. No state executive in the country, or even in recent memory, has been more committed to attacking workers’ rights and collective bargaining, not to mention the wages, benefits, and pensions of public employees.

Here’s the real reason Walker is seeking to end the 36-year practice: it helps people vote. Wisconsin has the third-highest turnout rate in the country: in part because of the state’s strong civic tradition, but also because same-day registration helps transient Wisconsinites (like students, young people, minorities, and low-income workers) exercise their rights. Two weeks ago, 48,000 voters took advantage of same-day registration in Milwaukee, helping boost turnout in that city to 87 percent.

If the 2012 election proved anything, pro-worker candidates succeed when more people turn out to vote. Walker knows this, so he has a consistent standard operating procedure when it comes to voting rights: restrict at all costs. Act 23, Walker’s voter ID law that was found unconstitutional in April, would have cost the state’s DMV an extra $6 million, despite his frequent protestations that the state is “broke.”

We have a better idea. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) have introduced the FAST Voting Act in the Senate, which would provide states resources to address election reform. In the House, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) has introduced the SIMPLE Voting Act, which would require all states to institute 15 days of early voting, and ensure that each precinct sufficient poll workers.

Those policies would benefit the overworked poll workers Walker is pretending to care about. But his true agenda is and has always been restricting voting rights. He also doesn’t have a history of listening to ideas that are not his.

Photo by keegstra on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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Our 2012 Endorsements

Working America has endorsed the following candidates and ballot initiatives in the 2012 election. These endorsements do not cover all the candidates and ballot issues in which we have a stake, but they all reflect the passion of our members and the values of our organization.

On November 6, please consider the following as you go to vote:

Barack Obama for President

Elizabeth Warren for U.S. Senate, Massachusetts

Claire McCaskill for U.S. Senate, Missouri

Martin Heinrich for U.S. Senate, New Mexico

Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate, Ohio

Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate, Virginia

Tammy Baldwin for U.S. Senate, Wisconsin

Joe Miklosi for U.S. Congress, Colorado, 6th District

Ed Perlmutter for U.S. Congress, Colorado, 7th District

Betty Sutton for U.S. Congress, Ohio, 16th District

Mark Critz for U.S. Congress, Pennsylvania, 12th District

No on Proposal 1, Michigan

Yes on Proposal 2, Michigan

Yes on Issue 2, Ohio

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Barack Obama for President

We’re proud to support President Barack Obama for re-election on Tuesday.

Four years ago, the nation was in crisis. We’d seen nearly a decade of stagnating wages, growing corporate power and steady erosion of the middle class. We were squandering time and resources we could have been using to rebuild America and create a fairer economy. In the fall, an under-regulated, irresponsible and out-of-control financial system detonated, which led to a massive recession and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs every month. We nearly lost a major American industry as the recession crippled auto companies.

Today, we’ve seen nearly three straight years of jobs being added in the private sector. Though things are still tough, we stopped the nosedive of our economy avoided the catastrophic depression that seemed imminent in 2008. We saved nearly a million jobs or more by rescuing the auto industry. And what’s more, we passed much-needed reforms to our health care system and our financial system that will help protect working people and rein in corporate power. None of this was inevitable, none of it was easy, and none of it would have happened if our hard work hadn’t elected Barack Obama as our president.

President Obama also signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and an important credit card reform bill. He passed the Recovery Act that halted the economic collapse, cut taxes for working-class and middle class families and invested in our schools, our infrastructure and new kinds of energy. And he appointed champions for working people to the U.S. Supreme Court, the National Labor Relations Board and the new Consumer Financial Protection Board.

We haven’t agreed with the president on everything, but when it comes down to it, he’s shown that he wants to make America work better for middle class and working-class families. His values and his priorities are the same ones we hear from ordinary people at their doors thousands of times a week: building prosperity by strengthening the middle class, ensuring a great education for our kids, keeping the promise of Social Security and Medicare for today’s retirees and tomorrow’s.

Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, has been hard to pin down on a lot of issues, but on the basic economic issues that matter most, his views are remarkably clear: he thinks corporations and the very wealthy are the most important actors in the economy, and so in order to make the economy work we have to tilt it ever-further in favor of those rich and powerful actors. He said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt” rather than investing in the auto industry. He named Paul Ryan as his running mate—endorsing a radical plan to demolish Medicare and leave seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies. As a finance-industry CEO, he exemplified the worst trends in our economy, stripping companies of value for himself and his shareholders and leaving the people who worked for those companies stranded. In his business career, he was referred to as a “pioneer” of outsourcing, and his proposals would give companies further incentives to ship He’s maddeningly unspecific about much of his tax plan, but every serious analysis shows that he would give bigger tax breaks to millionaires (like him) than even George W. Bush did. And he has declared time and time again that his top priority is repealing the health care reform and Wall Street reform that President Obama worked so hard to pass.

This isn’t a close call. President Obama’s skill and leadership in stopping the economic collapse and putting in place health care reform and Wall Street reform would be enough to earn him a second term—but the case for a vote for Obama is even clearer when you compare it to what a Romney administration would look like.

On Tuesday, we recommend a vote for President Obama—and we hope you’ll get your friends and family to the polls, too.

Photo by Intel Photos on Flickr

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Endorsement: Tammy Baldwin for U.S. Senate

In Wisconsin, the choice for U.S. Senate is stark. There’s really no contest—we think Tammy Baldwin is the clear choice over Tommy Thompson.

Tammy Baldwin, who represents central Wisconsin in the U.S. House, has a solid record of supporting working- and middle-class families. Her record shows that she believes in protecting a secure retirement, expanding access to health care, and creating good jobs that people can live on.

Thompson is a veteran politician who served as the state’s governor from 1986 to 2001. Since then, however, he’s moved away from Wisconsin—serving in George W. Bush’s cabinet before starting a career at a Washington lobbying firm. He went straight from pushing Bush’s drug-industry-friendly Medicare changes to a high-paid job advocating and advising drug companies and health insurance companies. His clients included corporations that profited from outsourcing jobs to other countries.

Thompson’s campaign promises show how much he’s embraced a corporate-friendly agenda. He supports even deeper tax cuts for millionaires like him, at the expense of programs, like student loans and Social Security, the rest of us need. He has wrapped himself enthusiastically around Paul Ryan and the Ryan budget, which would privatize Medicare and shift costs to seniors, who would be left on their own to contend with insurance companies. In a video recorded at a Tea Party gathering this spring, Thompson even asked, “who better than me” to “do away with Medicare and Medicaid.”

Tommy Thompson has spent the last few years advocating on behalf of powerful corporations in his lobbying-firm job. There’s no reason to think he won’t have exactly the same priorities in the U.S. Senate. We know where Baldwin would stand, because we’ve seen how she’s voted as a member of the U.S. House. She’s always looked out for working people in Wisconsin with drive and determination.

Tammy Baldwin is, to be sure, a better choice than Tommy Thompson. But the real pleasure for Wisconsin voters is that they don’t just have a chance to vote against a bad option—they have a chance to vote for someone. By voting for Baldwin, they’ll elect someone who will stand out in the Senate for her commitment to her principles. Baldwin won’t just vote the right way; she’ll be a leader and a voice for working people.

Tammy Baldwin is looking to move Wisconsin forward. She has the values and the energy to be a great Senator.

Photo by isafmedia on Flickr.

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Getting Out the Vote the Old Fashioned Way: With Pizza and Postcards

Working America activists in Wisconsin have been diligently putting pen to paper (well, postcard) for the last few weeks in an effort to urge voters to get out on Election Day and vote.

Women (and a few men) from across the state have been getting together for our Woman-to-Woman Pizza and Postcard parties. Our members realize that the stakes are high this election and are enjoying the chance to reach out to others about the candidates that support our issues.

One of the messages our members felt needed to be spread was President Barack Obama’s willingness to represent the entire country as president. They reminded folks of Mitt Romney’s now infamous “47 percent” comments, which disregard almost half of voters as “dependent on the government” and unwilling to “take personal responsibility […] for their lives.”

Activists wrote postcard after postcard reminding folks that Romney’s tax plan benefits the wealthy and harms the middle class and the poor. The Romney-Ryan agenda cuts taxes for the wealthy at the expense those who are already struggling to get by.

Our members want to spread the word that it’s just not right to take more from a family who can barely put food on the table so that the super wealthy can get tax breaks they don’t need.

Rosemarie from Oak Creek talked about how squeezed the middle class already is and how we need people who represent more than just the wealthy in office. “Most of our senators and congressmen are millionaires,” she said, “it doesn’t matter to them if their electric or tax bills go up but the rest of us struggle with that.”

Rosemarie’s sentiments closely align with most of the people in Wisconsin: they want to be truly represented. They want someone in office who is going to worry about the things they worry about.

Beyond tax fairness, Wisconsinites are worried about jobs – for themselves, for their family, for their friends and for their neighbors. While they’re worried about keeping their job or finding a good job, politicians like Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) keep voting against any bill that would help the middle class while attacking the social safety net.  Republican Senate candidate Tommy Thompson’s latest promise to “do away with Medicare” proves he’s just another Ron Johnson.

Our members know that’s not what Wisconsin needs, so they are making sure to spread the word on candidates that support our issues. The postcards urge folks to vote for Tammy Baldwin for U.S. Senate who will listen to their concerns and fight on their behalf for good jobs and tax fairness.

These postcard parties are important to our members and important for voters. Our Working America activists want to make sure that the issues are known. Jerry from Racine said she came to a Pizza and Postcard Party because “our voices need to be heard, they have been trying to silence us and I won’t let them. Voting is our right and we are going to keep it that way.”

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