Or about a rally protesting the American Legislative Exchange Council’s paid ads defending Florida’s “kill at will” legislation. Or upcoming “spring training” events for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Or maybe a discussion of the impact on Social Security solvency if the wealthiest 1 percent paid their fair share into the system. Maybe a news story on how your senators voted on the Blunt Amendment that would have let employers determine whether their employees had access to birth control insurance coverage.
Behind the Scenes
You probably never noticed who was behind these stories. You may never have even heard of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
Citizen Action says it “organizes people to make Wisconsin a better place to live and work.”
It’s the brains and coordinator behind hundreds of media stories, mobilizations and educational campaigns across the state every year to promote economic and social justice. If you don’t immediately connect Citizen Action’s name to everything they do, it may be because “We try to let the issues take center stage,” according to Jim Cavanaugh, former president of the South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL) and a longtime member of the Citizen Action Executive Committee. The SCFL is one of over a hundred dues-paying Citizen Action affiliates.
In addition to affiliates, Citizen Action has assembled a broad coalition of progressive organizations across the state, including leading labor, senior citizen, environmental, community, interfaith, women’s, family farm, teacher’s and civil rights organizations.
“The idea is to bring together a lot of groups that tend to focus on different issues into a united front,” Cavanaugh says. “This way we can get unions and farmers involved in the mining issue and bring together environmentalists and Native Americans to defend women’s reproductive rights.”
Citizen Action’s major emphasis is on jobs and health care reform. But, with the all-around assault by the right-wing these days, you are likely to see Citizen Action attacking any number of issues. One day may see them coordinating a press conference on Corporate Personhood, the next on defending Wisconsin’s public employee pension system.
A quick search uncovered 16 news stories in the state in the past month alone where Citizen Action appeared prominently.
On March 20, Citizen Action organized people to fill the Milwaukee Common Council meeting to demand passage of a jobs act.
On March 26, a Citizen Action spokesperson was on Wisconsin Public Radio denouncing excessive health insurance premium increases in the state. That same day the Green Bay Press-Gazette quoted Citizen Action on Governor Scott Walker’s decision to turn down $40 million in federal health care aid appeared in a Capital Times article on moves to repeal the state’s Pay Equity Law.
The organization certainly gets around. Not only geographically, but on the issues as well.
If there’s a public face of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, it would be Executive Director Robert Kraig. He appears regularly at media events and on radio and TV talk shows, and he’s the one usually quoted in press releases. But the organization includes nine other staffers with titles like “Health Care Organizer,” “Economic Justice Program Director,” and “Canvasser.”
“I can’t say enough about Kraig and the other people who work for Citizen Action. They work very, very hard,” Cavanaugh said. “But, you can tell, they all really love their jobs.”
The organization has some goals and initiatives for the immediate future. Increasing access to affordable health care. Restoring collective bargaining rights for public employees. Generating good jobs and livable neighborhoods in major urban areas. Passage of the Milwaukee Jobs Act. Restoring Walker’s cuts to BadgerCare. Gearing up for renewal of the Occupy movement.
But it’s hard to say just what’s in the immediate future for Citizen Action because a lot of their work these days is in reaction to the general assault on the lives of ordinary people in our state. So, in effect, the right-wing is setting much of their agenda.
But, whatever the future holds for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, we can be sure they’ll be out there, doing good work for our side.
For more information visit www.citizenactionwi.org.