If Not Now, When?

9to5_logo.jpgOn Thursday, April 10, Martha De La Rosa, State Director for 9to5 of Wisconsin, is presenting a webinar entitled "When Women Do Better, Wisconsin Does Better." You can sign up to attend the 7:00 PM presentation by clicking on this link: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EA53DE8889493D

wageGap_larger.jpgBut perhaps you think this issue isn't really very pressing. I beg to differ. As the Institute for Women's Policy Research reported In January, 2014,

About half of all workers (51 percent of women and 47 percent of men) report that the discussion of wage and salary information is either discouraged or prohibited and/or could lead to punishment. Most government agencies have formal grade and step systems that make general wage and salary information public (only 18 percent of women and 11 percent of men in the public sector report discouragement or prohibition of wage and salary discussions).

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the very first act President Obama signed into law, sought to make it easier for women to seek redress for wage discrimination in the federal courts.

Here in Wisconsin, however, our state government decided to go backwards and to make judicial redress HARDER. Here's Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson's brief account from April 2013:

Shocking the state, legislative Republicans rejected Wisconsin's tradition of fairness and rolled back equal protection laws for Wisconsin's working women by passing 2011 Wisconsin Act 219 last session. The adoption of this proposal eliminates equal protection laws for Wisconsin's women and limits their ability to seek justice for discrimination. This bill not only halted much needed steps towards equal pay for women, but also erased prior advances that have been made.

This issue affects everyone. Please join Grassroots North Shore and Marth De La Rosa, Thursday, April 10, 7:00 PM to learn how you can help make real progress in closing the pay gap. Register here: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EA53DE8889493D.

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Food for Thought

skwJobsRecord.jpgScott Walker's re-election should be in trouble. His signature issue — that Wisconsin would grow 250,000 private-sector jobs before the end of his first term — is toast. As today's update to Politifact's Walk-O-Meter points out, the clock is running out "on Gov. Scott Walker's promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs before the end of his four-year term.... In a little more than three years with Walker as governor, the state has created an estimated 101,572 private sector jobs. That leaves 148,428 jobs — or an average of 14,842 a month for the rest of the year — for Walker to achieve his promise."

So he can't really run on his record. But that might not translate into an electoral defeat. As we head into the 2014 election cycle, it may be useful to look back at some of the analysis of the recall election if only to see whether the arguments proffered then still resonate with us today. And to evaluate our own thinking about how we frame our positions now.

The day after the failed recall, Dean Bakopoulos published an article in Slate called "What's the Matter with Wisconsin," a riff on Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter with Kansas. His basic argument is that Walker's camp successfully turned some ordinary middle-class Wisconsinites into scapegoats. Here's the gist of it:

As Wisconsin’s new political landscape so clearly indicates, conservatives have ... managed to vilify plain old working people as elitist fat cats. Librarians, teachers, public employees, and union laborers: Basically, people who earn health insurance and decent wages have suddenly become the things that stagnate an economy and raise taxes, when in truth they, and those wages they enjoy, have been the lifeblood of a struggling post-industrial economy.

But by declaring war on teachers, union laborers, and public sector employees, the well-heeled spinners behind the rise of Scott Walker have managed to make struggling Americans vote against their own best interests out of a sense of fear and envy. Struggling workers — and most comfortable middle-class workers — often to need an identifiable villain, someone who is holding them back from success, in order to vote Republican. If Republicans can present themselves as an enemy of that villain, they win. That’s what happened happened last night in Wisconsin.

I wonder how many Democrats, whether moderate or progressive, agree with Bakopoulos's assessment. And to the extent we see merit in his position, what do we need to do to identify alternative "villains"?

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Voting Rights Under Assault

votingRights2.jpgDon't allow Walker to restrict voting rights.
Start fighting back!

Governor Walker and his Republican cronies have decided to rig Wisconsin's elections to improve their chances of holding on to power in the fall 2014 elections. How? By severely curtailing early voting. The latest legislation eliminates all weekend voting and stipulates that early voting can take place only between the hours of 8 AM and 7 PM. Such restrictions simply mean that for urban residents in particular, it will be much harder to get to the one municipal office where they can vote during the days and hours when it will be open.

The bottom line: voters in large urban areas like Milwaukee and Madison will either be prevented from voting early or will be discouraged from voting at all. The very same people who are likely to find it difficult to vote on election day will now find it difficult to vote, period.

Join Grassroots North Shore in mobilizing to fight back. Log on and drop in to this week's  Information for Activation webinar:

Thursday, April 3, 7:00-7:30 PM
Who: Mike Wilder, Issue Coordinator, Wisconsin Voices
Presentation: “Our Democracy 2020: How to Reclaim Our Right to Vote in WI”
Register for this Webinar: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EA53DD80884A30

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Falling Behind

econGrowthIndex.jpgJust two weeks ago, the New York Times published a chart comparing the economic progress of all 50 states since 2007, when the Great Recession began. Based on three key metrics, Wisconsin came in 37th. In other words, 36 states have made more economic progress than Wisconsin and only 13 have fared worse.

Now the Wisconsin State Journal has an interactive graph (reproduced as a static graphic here with the states labeled) showing how Wisconsin compares to the US average and to 6 other Midwest state along 4 dimensions: Nonfarm Employment, Manufacturing Hours, Unemployment Rate, and Wages. The graph shows the percent change over the three month period ending with December 2013 along the y axis and the percent change since January 2011, when Governor Walker began his (only) term. On the y dimension, the higher the dot, the greater the progress. On the x dimension better performance shows up as a greater distance from 0. The red dot represents Wisconsin.

As the chart shows, Wisconsin bested 3 of its neighbors in the last quarter of 2013, but lags behind all 6 Midwest states when the entire tenure of our current governor is measured. The green dot just to the right and somewhat above the red Wisconsin dot represents the aggregate of all 50 states. And there too, we lag behind whether we want to look just at the last three months of 2013 or we want to look back over the past 3+ years.

It didn't used to be this way. And it doesn't have to continue.

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A Preview of WI Legislative Elections for 2014

citizen_action_logo.jpgEvery election cycle has its own landscape so it is important to get an overview of the lay of the land for Wisconsin Assembly and Senate races coming in fall 2014. Matt Brusky, Deputy Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, takes us through where the opportunities and challenges lie in both Assembly and Senate districts. You can listen to and watch the presentation on the AnyMeeting site: https://www.anymeeting.com/702-244-435/EF53D685834D. You can view just his slides right here.


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Protect Everyone's Right to Vote

stopGrothmanBill.jpgSenator Grothman has just introduced yet another piece of legislation designed to put obstacles in the way of citizens who want to vote. This time it's same day registration. Previously, it was reducing and restricting early voting days and hours, preventing people from voting in the evenings or on weekends. And of course there's the Voter ID law currently being adjudicated in both state and federal courts.

These efforts weaken our democratic system both because they make it more difficult for eligible voters to register and cast their ballots and because they send a discouraging message to people who would exercise their franchise if it were convenient and easy to do so.

Call your state legislators and object to this latest attempt to subvert our democratic system: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/Pages/waml.aspx

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We're Number 37, and That's Not a Good Thing

In today's New York Times, Floyd Norris compares the economic fortunes of all 50 states using three different measures of  progress since the recession began. And Wisconsin comes in 37th. Meanwhile, Mike Ivey in today's Capital Times reports that "[i]ncome inequality in Wisconsin is increasing at a faster rate than the nation as a whole, a trend that authors of a new report warn [by the Wisconsin Budget Project] is causing social upheaval and straining government services."



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