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Joan Fitz-Gerald Headshot

We're Not Going to Take It

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WISCONSIN

On June 29, Scott Walker's ban on collective bargaining goes into effect in Wisconsin. What this means for public employees in Wisconsin is that they no longer have a seat at the table as their employers make critical decisions about things like the employees' health care benefits, workplace conditions and how much they will pay into their pension funds. Under the cloak of fiscal discipline, conservatives in Wisconsin are attacking middle class Americans, the backbone of our country.

After Wisconsin Republicans rammed through the collective bargaining bill, mass protests erupted across the state. Crowds of working Wisconsinites gathered day after day to show their opposition to Governor Walker and Republicans in Madison, but they were also speaking for hard-working Americans across the country who are frustrated by conservative class warfare.

America Votes and America Votes Action Fund are working with our partners in the independent progressive community like labor, women's rights groups and environmental groups to coordinate a campaign plan to take back the Wisconsin Senate and bring new lawmakers to Madison who understand that a strong America is built on a strong middle class, which means good jobs, steadily improving wages and benefits, and hope for the future. America Votes was established in 2004 to be the permanent progressive campaign infrastructure, bringing together progressive independent groups across the country to make these campaigns as efficient and effective as they can possibly be. From Wisconsin to New Hampshire to Ohio and Florida, America Votes and our partners are working throughout the year to run smart issue advocacy campaigns and, during election cycles, we're bringing all groups to the table to elect progressive candidates at all levels of government.

The ban on collective bargaining has real implications for workers in Wisconsin, for example: teachers will have no say in what their class sizes will be, which in turn affects the quality of public education for everyone; nurses will have no say in the working conditions, long hours they have to endure and the number of patients they are responsible for, which obviously has devastating effects on the quality of care we all get. This kind of attack on working people also has critical effects in the community -- when workers have less to spend, small businesses in the community suffer. If workers take-home pay is cut, it's less money they are able to spend to grow local economies. And while they are giving millions in tax breaks to their corporate cronies and the wealthiest in their states, conservatives from Wisconsin to Ohio to Florida to Michigan are trying to balance budgets on the backs of working Americans.

We've seen, though, that their constituents are fed up. In Florida, Governor Rick Scott's numbers have tanked recently -- he stands at a 29 percent approval rating. In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder is sitting at a 33 percent approval rating as his numbers continue to decline month to month. In Ohio, Governor John Kasich is sitting at a 38 percent approval rating, a 19 point swing since this January. And in Wisconsin, Governor Walker is sitting at 43 percent approval rating in the latest Public Policy Polling snapshot, another 5-point swing from their last poll.

These governors know the voters aren't happy, and in many states including Wisconsin, conservatives are pushing through restrictive Voter ID laws that result in costly and unnecessary burdens that disproportionately affect students, the elderly and minorities. All the while, conservatives are restricting the length of early voting periods and discouraging new voters by ending same-day registration at the polls. This is all part of their plan to keep power and continue to expand their radical conservative agendas. All eyes are on Wisconsin to see if we are able to turn outrage into action -- we have a chance to continue to build on the progressive momentum built this summer. November 2012 is still a ways away, but the recalls in Wisconsin give us a chance to have our voices heard now.

And make no mistake about it, the 2012 election has begun. These are not isolated campaigns -- this is the campaign. We stand at a crossroads in our country -- we can move forward and expand on the progressive victories we were able to achieve in 2006 and 2008 and allow 2010 to be but a small bump in the road. Or, if Governor Walker and his pals have their way, 2010 could be a harbinger of terrible things to come for working families in this country.

The bottom line is that in good times and bad, working and middle class Americans should be able to count on a good public education for our kids, health care for our families, good jobs and dignity in our old age. That's what America is about. But these simple components of the American dream are under attack right now -- in Wisconsin and across the country. We can't afford to sit and wait for someone else to fix the problem. That's our job.

Around the Web

Wisconsin GOP Bill Allows State to Fire Employees for Strikes ...

Fiscal Crisis Strikes At Labor's Core: Public Workers : NPR

Wisconsin unions sue over new collective bargaining law | Reuters

Wisconsin Curbs Unions - WSJ.com

The Fight for Unions in Wisconsin : The New Yorker

Wisconsin Splits Over Governor's Move Against Public Unions ...