Wage Theft Bill Action Guide: Hold Legislators Accountable for Representing the Common Good

Don't be fooled Wisconsin!
The so-called "right to work" law....is really called the "wage theft" law. Workplace freedom is about being able to take a grievance to your employer without fear. It's about being able to negotiate your pay fairly and about being able to take a day off when your child gets sick. Wisconsin workers want to be able to have a set schedule so they can know when to go to a meeting with their child's teacher.
Those are the types of workplace freedoms we should all have.
Image and caption: Overpass Light Brigade

What the Wage Theft Bill (aka "Right to Work") Means to Wisconsin and What You Can Do About It

Hold Wisconsin legislators accountable and let them know they have our support in doing the right thing

Wisconsin Republicans plan to fast-track an ALEC-authored Wage Theft Bill next week that would put Wisconsin on a fast track to lower wages and fewer living-wage jobs. [Bill text here].

Scott Walker says busting teachers' unions
will have jihadists quivering in fear.
Image and caption: Nicole Desautels
You may have heard already that Gov. Walker has been suggesting that his ability to "deal with" the protests in 2011 translates to the "security credentials" necessarily to "deal with" Putin, ISIS, etc.  He's also been sharing stories of dubious credibility of late, including ones that make the hardworking Wisconsin citizens opposed to his policies look like bloodthirsty criminals (such as a false one about how protesters tried to tip over his car, and new, unsubstantiated claims about threats to his family). 

At the same fundraiser in which he sat in silence as Rudy Giuliani claimed that Pres. Obama "doesn't love America,"  [update: Walker has since said he "doesn't know" if Obama "loves his country"], Gov. Walker said this, according to Larry Kudrow at the National Review:

"Walker argued that when Reagan fired the PATCO air-traffic controllers over their illegal strike, he was sending a message of toughness to Democrats and unions at home as well as our Soviet enemies abroad. Similarly, Walker believes his stance against unions in Wisconsin would be a signal of toughness to Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin."
Wisconsinites won't have the "weapon" of a vote on this issue.
Call on legislators to do the right thing with theirs.
That's right: In 2011, the Wisconsinites who stood in opposition to a budget that would gut our schools and revoke workers' rights were "union thugs".  In 2015, he wants the world to believe these citizens are no better than terrorists.

We learned now that there are plans to "crack down" on Capitol security next week.  Legislators have been told to be prepared to show ID to enter the building.

We are being played.  The divisive Wage Theft Bill on the table for passage next week is the "distraction" Walker was looking for to draw attention away from his much-criticized budget bill (which has taken lots of media heat from both the left and the right and already generated protests at UW-Madison and beyond), and they knew that the outrage would be strong from all sides. After months of saying the bill would be a "distraction," Walker said yesterday he'd sign it into law as soon as it hits his desk.  An angry "mob" trying to gain entry to the Capitol will be used to feed the narrative of Walker as the "victim" as he promotes his unpopular budget - and his own presidential aspirations. 


As in 2011, there is widespread bipartisan opposition to Walker's self-inflicted kick-the-can budget "crisis" as well as both the draconian budget and the Wage Theft Bill that would reduce wages & benefits, restrict worker protections, revoke workers' rights, and lead to decreased funding for public schools and other services.  We know this.  We have seen it happen in other states, as non-RWT states pick up the tab for the many working poor in RTW states who are forced to rely on subsidies to augment their poverty wages -- all during a time of record profits for corporations.  Data shows that states with Wage Theft Laws spend over 30% less on public schools.

This is not a partisan issue. 

It's not a question of "workers vs employers" either.  Or "union members vs non union members."  Check out this list of 400+ Wisconsin contractors who oppose Wage Theft Legislation

Listen to what former Republican Senator Dale Schultz has to say about the bill, which is likely to lead to an average lose of wages of $1,500 per person, per year:

“This is going to hurt Wisconsin employers terribly in the long run, as the workforce gets more angry. I represented a lot of blue-collar labor people, both union and non-union. So I know that even the wages of non-union workers are determined by collective bargaining. They may not be paying for it, but it has an impact. It’s a cowardly move to make certain the public can’t be heard on this issue and rush it through in a special session. They ought to be embarrassed or ashamed. I thought they would have at least gone through the trouble of having a sham public hearing, but they don’t even think that’s necessary here.”
Image: Defeat "Right To Work" in Wisconsin

We need to let our friends, neighbors and legislators know that we OPPOSE a budget that further guts our public schools and social services (while handing out money we can't afford for tax breaks and private school tuition vouchers) and we OPPOSE a Wage Theft Bill that makes it even harder to earn a living wage at a time when so many are struggling.  Good people deserve good jobs, good schools, and good communities.  And Wisconsin is full of good people.

These good people are the same nurses, teachers, laborers, retirees, students, professionals, and citizens of all walks of life who simply want to hold elected officials responsible for doing what they were elected to do: REPRESENT US, not special interests or campaign contributors.

We can only make this happen if we do OUR civic duty: TAKE ACTION.

Here's what you can do:

  • MOBILIZE.  Rallies are already planned for Milwaukee and Madison.
    Plan to be there if you can.  Peaceful protest is a way we can put a kind, human face to our concerns and counter the absurd, insulting portrait Gov. Walker would like to paint of us as a step away from radical terrorist thugs.  Think carefully about your signs, and send a positive message of support for living wage jobs and democracy (holding legislators accountable to represent the will of the people).
    • Mon. Feb. 23, Milwaukee: 5:00pm, Zeidler Union Square (4th and Michigan) 
    • Tues. Feb. 24, Madison. Noon, Wisconsin State Capitol, State Street entrance.
    • Wed. Feb. 25, Madison. Noon, Wisconsin State Capitol, State Street entrance.
Image: MTEA
Rallies are a powerful way to create a visibility and momentum for holding legislators accountable and letting them know they have our support in doing the right thing.  But there are many ways to protest this bill and attending a rally is just one of them.  Here are some others:
  • SPEAK UP.  Contact your legislators.  Call. Write. Visit their offices on Monday.  If they don't hear from you, they don't know you oppose the bills.  It's that simple.  You must contact them.
    If you're unsure of your legislators, find them here.  Or use the Citizen Action form here and send your letter online.
    You might also consider cc'ing your letter to the Governor and these key Senators, who may be more likely than others to vote for the people on this issue:
    Cowles -(920) 448-5092 Green Bay area
    Gudex -(608) 266-5300 Fond du Lac area
    Harsdorf -(608) 266-7745 River Falls
    Marklein -(608) 266-0703 Spring Green
    Petrowski -(608) 266-2502 Marathon
    Email addresses for your copy/paste convenience
    Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov, Sen.Gudex
    @legis.wisconsin.gov, Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wisconsin.gov, Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov, Sen.Petrowski@legis.wisconsin.gov, GovGeneral@wisconsin.gov
  • SPEAK OUT.  Make your letter to your legislator an OPEN LETTER.   Post it online. Send it to your friends and neighbors. Print copies to pass out at work. This is critical to spreading the word and sharing our concerns widely.  If you want to make it really open, send it to me and I'll put in up on the blog.
  • Attend the PUBLIC HEARING on the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 9am at the State Capitol.  You can register to speak or you can just register "for" or "against" the bill.
  • Talk to your neighbors, friends, family, colleagues, people you run into at the grocery store or school. Use email, call people. Do whatever it takes. 
  • Use social media. Share your letters, news links, and posts like this widely. If you're on twitter, use these hashtags: #WageTheftBill #WrongForWI #RightToWorkForLess
  • Sign this petition from AFL-CIO Wisconsin. Then share it widely.
  • Attend a listening session and share your concerns in person.  Visit your legislator's homepage or call his/her office to find out when listening sessions are being held in your community. This action has more impact than you can imagine, as these events are taken very seriously by legislators and are often not very well attended.  BE THERE and your voice will be amplified more than you know -- your representatives will hear you, and so will your local community.  Exhibit A:  a recent budget hearing in the conservative Mauston community got big coverage last week under the headline "Walker Budget Gets Bad Reviews at Listening Session.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper(s).  Keep it short, simple, personal, and to the point (250-350 words is the max for most papers).  Focus on the VALUES shared by members of your community, and how those shared values are threatened when we pass laws that hurt jobs, schools, workers, the elderly, etc.
  • Contact local government (city council, school board, county board members) and urge them to pass a resolution opposing the Wage Theft Bill and/or the budget.  Local officials answer to you: authorize them to speak on your behalf by putting pressure on them to do due diligence by your community! 
  • Know the facts.  According to a Marquette University economist, there is "simply no economic reason to argue for right-to-work in Wisconsin."  Share articles like this widely.
    Image: Wisconsin Jobs Now
  • Avoid the hype.  "Right to Work" is a confusing and misleading name for a bill that takes freedom, protections, and rights away from workers and is more accurately called a "Wage Theft Bill".  Don't fall into the trap of thinking that RTW is about creating jobs - it's not. States with RTW laws have lower wages, fewer protections, and more people on government assistance
  • Volunteer.  Contact your union or professional association, your local grassroots team, your civic groups, etc, and find out what local actions are being planned and how you can help.  One thing you can do today is volunteer to help phonebank  (in Madison) and let people know why this issue is so important to Wisconsin families.
  • Keep calm and do the right thing.  Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The time is always right to do what's right."  Take that charge seriously.  Even though it's evident that the supermajority in the assembly and senate can pass these bills regardless of what we say, that doesn't give us permission to stay silent or feel there's nothing we can do - if anything, it amplifies the urgency of speaking loudly, and as one.  

    Speaking truth to power isn't easy.  And it can be frustrating - terrifying, even - when we feel that "power" isn't just not listening, but is openly hostile to our concerns.

    But it's not our job to worry about whether they're listening.  We can't control that.  It's our job to have spoken at a time when what we had to say needed to be said.  That we can control.  That we can do. 

    Our silence is consent, and apathy is not an option when the common good is at stake. 

    Have faith.  Stay calm.  Do the right thing.  And, again, remember the words of Dr. King:  The arc of the moral universe is long,  as we have most certainly seen here in Wisconsin.  But it does bend toward justice.

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