Progressives in Congress voice support for Wisconsin lawmakers
By Barb Kucera, Workday editor 23 February 2011
|MINNEAPOLIS - Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minn., voiced support Wednesday for Wisconsin Democrats, who said they will continue to “stand firm” against Governor Scott Walker’s anti-worker proposals.
“The struggle that you’re raging in Wisconsin is really emblematic of struggles across the states and in the federal government as well . . . We are standing shoulder to shoulder with you,” Ellison told Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, and Senator Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, in a conference call with the media.
|Congressman Keith Ellison
For their part, Miller and Larson said they believe public opinion is swinging against the Republican governor and they vowed to stay out of state – depriving the Wisconsin Senate of a quorum – until he compromises.
“People are standing up . . . They want to see a stop to the war on workers,” Miller said. “[Walker’s] proposals are opposed not only by Democrats, but by independents and by a growing number of Republicans.”
“We are standing firm where we are,” said Larson. “We are not going to stand for extreme legislation that is going to get passed through without public input.”
A poll released Monday by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research shows 51 percent of Wisconsin voters disapprove of Walker’s job performance and 67 percent side with public employees in the dispute over his proposed legislation to strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights.
“The governor is ignoring the biggest public opposition to a bill in Wisconsin history,” Larson noted.
“The governor is losing the battle of public opinion,” said Miller. “The Republican legislators are very uncomfortable being put in a box where they feel like they can’t move.” If enough pressure is brought to bear, Miller will be forced to compromise, he said.
Ellison and Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, noted that Walker helped create his state’s budget crisis by handing out $115 million in corporate tax cuts. They said Congressional Republicans are taking the same approach – dealing out handouts to corporations and the wealthy while demanding sacrifice from middle-income families.
“I believe the power grab against working folks in Wisconsin is the agenda,” Grijalva said. “We’re not going to help our economy by giving tax cuts to millionaires . . . We need to deal with this economic crisis, but we need to do it by creating jobs and by protecting the jobs that are there.”
The anti-worker agenda is fueled by huge amounts of corporate money that flowed into states like Wisconsin to back Walker and other Republican candidates following the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision that allows widespread spending with no transparency.
“Unlimited amounts of money can be spent in a state with little public knowledge of where that money is actually coming from,” said Larson.
“Even before it was introduced, there were television ads in our state to support [Walker’s] bill,” Miller said.
Both lawmakers said the current struggle over collective bargaining rights, while monumental, is only one skirmish in a larger effort to stop the anti-worker agenda.
“However and whenever this particular battle is resolved, our fight is far from over,” Miller said.
For more information
Congressman Keith Ellison's website
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Workday's special section, Taking A Stand in Wisconsin