Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why political involvement matters to union people

I've been reading stuff on other blogs, comments on stories lately about why unions involve themselves in elections. There have been plenty of other rude comments about unions on them as well, but I won't get into that now. Perhaps another time.

Anyhow, for some of us who belong to unions, especially public employees, whomever is in political office often has a direct effect on what happens at our workplaces. For example, the Republicans in the state legislature (and beyond also) seem to think TABOR/TPA is the neatest thing since sliced bread. This sort of legislation directly threatens the way we do our jobs and provide services to the people of the state of Wisconsin. If there is less money or if there are less people to operate with, folks will be faced with longer lines at DMV offices (aren't they long enough already?), less books and research materials for students who attend school at our University system (while the students pay more and more for school), less people, money and equipment to maintain roads--well, you kind of get the picture. This kind of legislation hurts John and Jane Q. Public in many hidden ways that they may never see or think much about. Hence, the political involvement, at least on my part, to try and get people into office who will at least give a little thought to what effects passing legislation will have not only on the welfare of the general public but also it's effects on the employees who have to serve those people directly.

I'm not asking that our legislators to pander to unions, but keep in mind what benefits unions have fought and won for workers over the years that people take for granted. A few examples are: the 40 hour work week, 8 hour days, and child labor laws. People died for many of these rights. It's up to us to make sure that people who respect working people get elected to public office. We all have choices in our lives--some of us can't just sit on the sidelines any more and hope that good people get into elected office. We choose to continue the fight that our union brothers and sisters began as early as 1791 when Philadelphia carpenters went on strike to try and get a 10 hour working day.

When we fight--we win!

In solidarity,

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hey Oshkosh Northwestern, there are still local people involved in some 54th AD campaigns!

Like the Labor Chicks, for example. We have been involved with Gordon Hintz's campaign since 2004. We think he's a good guy and he should represent us in Madison. That's not just us as in organized labor talking, we mean it as citizens of Oshkosh also. We resent it when folks try to say that Madison is totally calling the shots, because they are not completely. Our opinion is if you don't want the impression that Madison is controlling the campaigns, get involved and be down there talking to the Madison folks (and the candidate himself) so that you as a local citizen have input into their thought process. Don't be lazy like so many folks and an armchair quarterback, as Stew Rieckman of the Oshkosh Northwestern, calls himself. We admit, that's fun, but not terribly productive. The only way we can change what's going on down in our state capital is to get involved and make your whining count!

In Craig Trost's (Gordon's campaign manager) defense--we like him. He's a sensible young man who actually does listen to local input and tries, we believe, to fit that input into what the campaign is doing. He went to school here and does know what's going on in our city, believe it or not.

Now get up off of that sofa and get your butt down to our headquarters (683 North Main Street) and volunteer to help--there are only 3 weeks left and we need you to help us counter what's going on down in our state legislature!


We support labor candidates

The Labor Chicks went on a little road trip last evening to attend the 55th Assembly District Candidate Forum in Menasha at UW Fox Valley. The folks under the microscope for the evening were current 55th AD Representative Dean Kaufert (R) and his challenger, Fox Valley Labor Council President Mark Westphal (D). Yeah, it's out of our district, but our local does have members who are in that district and therefore we have more than a passing interest in what happens in this race.

We got there a little late, so we missed any opening salvos that may have been fired during the intro section of the forum. We did get a couple of our questions answered during the forum, which made us happy. Not that we didn't know what the answers would probably be from the candidates, but sometimes it's fun to see what they're going to say--this is live and you never know what's gonna happen.

Well, on to the issues:

On health care--

Dean Kaufert (DK from now on): he took credit for creating Family Care. This Labor Chick did check on this and he actually was an author of that bill.

Mark Westphal (MW): everyone deserves affordable health care and we should have some form of universal health care.

On raising the minimum wage--

MW: Thinks raising the minimum wage is OK, but believes more work should be done to make wages more family supporting.

DK: has voted for increases in the minimum wage and says that he believes people should be paid more and treated fairly.

Should there be a mandatory 15 minute break for every 2 hours of work?

DK: Doesn't think that businesses should be forced to provide breaks after 2 hours of work.

MW: Workers are losing rights at an amazing rate. Worker protections have been rolled back and workers have been abused.

Indian gaming and video gambling macines--

MW: Doesn't think that video gaming is a problem. Doesn't think that there should be a big expansion of Indian gaming.

DK: Thinks we have enough gambling and casinos in Wisconsin.

Who should control the UW System-- the Board of Regents or the state legislature? (a Labor Chick question)--

MW: Make sure the Board of Regents keeps control of the UW System.

DK: Says we don't need to change the way we do things now and keep the Board of Regents in control of the UW System.

Should state spending be tied to the rate of personal income growth (formerly known as TABOR/TPA--also a Labor Chicks question)--

DK: Likes TABOR/TPA and tieing state budget growth to the rate of personal income growth. Doesn't believe that putting limits on state and local spending would cause cuts in services.

MW: Does not support TABOR in any form. Says it makes problems for local and county governments. Would like to see legislature create plan to stimulate growth.

Concealed weapons--pro or con?

MW: Opposes.

DK: Supports.

Campaign finance and ethics reform--

DK: Supports SB 1 (and says he voted for it!) and elimination of partisan caucuses.

MW: Claims DK voted against SB1 (he's right, DK did vote against it!). Says DK does one thing but says another on ethics and campaign finance reform. MW says he supports ethics and campaign finance reform.

Death penalty and civil unions bills--

MW: against both bills.

DK: for both bills.

Harley Davidson expanding out of state and union vote on contract at Harley Davidson--

DK: Labor and management need to work together. Blames DNR for driving Menards warehouse and distribution centers expansion out of Wisconsin (near Eau Claire).

MW: Companies are being driven away by rising costs of providing health care to employees. Believes disagreement between Menards and DNR could have been worked out.

Nelson Knowles Stewardship Program--

MW: We need to preserve wetlands and natural areas.

DK: Says initiative was to cap fund. Thinks there should be a limit to how much land we set aside as natural areas.

Winnebago County Sales Tax--

DK: Against. Says county should prioritize spending and that the sales tax initiative is not well thought out.

MW: The reason Winnebago County feels this is necessary is because of the levy freeze put on local municipalities by the state legislature. The county is trying to preserve the services they provide to the citizens of the county.

Anti bullying legislation (as it relates to schools)--

MW: in favor of legislation to help teachers.

DK: would support some form of legislation. Won't deal with Frank Lasee's arming teachers proposal.

How do you control taxes and balance the budget?

DK: The legislature won't raise your taxes. They should prioritize spending.

MW: Increase tax revenue by shifting the tax burden around so that average citizens are not footing the tax bill and make businesses shoulder their fair share of the tax burden.

What can be done to eliminate the highly partisan atmostphere in the legislature and Wisconsin?

MW: Campaign finance reform and ethics reform could help here. We need to clean up state government and restore our image. We need to elect people who will do what's right for the citizens of the district even if it goes against the party line.

DK: Treat others with respect. Stay away from negative campaigning. Campaign finance reform and ethics reform could help clean up the problem.

We would like to thank the League of Women Voters for putting on this forum. You've read what the candidates said on these issues. Now get out there and help whoever you can and VOTE on November 7! We know who we're supporting and sadly, we cannot vote in this race. But our members can.

Our next report will be after the 54th Assembly District candidate forum in Oshkosh, which occurs at 7PM Thursday, October 19, at Oshkosh's City Hall, 4th floor. Be there with your questions!