Phone Banking starts 6/18
Noon-4pm Rain or Shine!
Discher Park – Horicon (click for map)
Thursday June 20 – West Clinic
451 Junction Road
11:00am – 1:00pm
Friday June 21st – UW Hospital & Clinics
With special guest Sly (93.7)
600 Highland Ave
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.
Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has been devastating for Wisconsin citizens. This summary by the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO covers some of the major losses for middle income and working class families over the last year. It details how the public policies promoted by the Walker administration represent a radical departure from Wisconsin values and traditions. Click here for “Losses” full-length or “Losses” Talking Points
Labor and community organizations have signed on to a new bill introduced in the State Legislature that would roll back Governor Walker’s slashing cuts to BadgerCare and fund the program by closing corporate tax loopholes.
The BadgerCare Protection Act bill repeals the elements of Act 10 and the State Budget which give the Walker Administration the authority to slash BadgerCare. The bill is funded by rolling back some Walker tax giveaways to large corporations which allow multi-state corporations to shelter profits in other states, reducing their Wisconsin taxes.
“At a time when Wisconsin needs to make tough choices, the right choice is to make sure families have access to affordable health insurance,” State Representative Jon Richards (D- Milwaukee) said at a State Capitol press conference on February 28. “The wrong choice is to deny health care coverage so corporations and the wealthy can get tax giveaways.”
“It is unconscionable for Scott Walker to force tens of thousands off BadgerCare in order to open up tax loopholes which enable some of the largest corporations in Wisconsin to shelter profits out of state,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “The BadgerCare Protection Act restores basic fairness. By merely asking large corporations to pay their fair share of state taxes we can protect the health security of tens of thousands of Wisconsin families during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”
So far, 22 unions and community organizations have endorsed the BadgerCare Protection Act, including the South Central Federation of Labor, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, Wisconsin State AFL- CIO, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, 9 to 5 Milwaukee, Alliance for Women’s Health, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Milwaukee Area Labor Council, Grassroots Citizens of Wisconsin, Coalition for Wisconsin Health, Greater Wisconsin Committee, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, AFSCME, National Association of Social Workers Wisconsin Chapter, AFT Wisconsin, Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, ABC for Health, and Wisconsin Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Following is a statement by Mark Dudzic, on behalf of the Steering Committee for the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer. -ed.
This autumn has been witness to an extraordinary moment in American history as the Occupy Wall Street movement swept the nation and gave voice to a widespread anger at corporate greed and raging inequality. With winter approaching, and more and more cities sending police to physically assault and clear out their outdoor encampments, it is time to take stock of the achievements and prospects of this movement.
From the start, the Labor Campaign for Single Payer has stood with the 99%. Our fight to win healthcare as a human right for everyone in America is part of this movement. Our victory depends on this movement becoming powerful enough to defeat the 1% who treat the people’s health as just another source of profit and whose control of the political process stymies any real efforts at reform.
We stand with them because they have brought to light the vicious class war that is daily waged against working people and because they have boldly called on the American people to choose sides in this war. We stand with them because they have laid bare the links between the economic and political power of the 1% and the misery of the 99%.
As part of our campaign for healthcare for all, we will work to spread and sustain this movement. We have a particular interest and duty in working to facilitate strategic and mutually respectful relationships with the labor movement which has always stood in the front lines of the war on the workers and has been under intensified assault for over thirty years. We believe that such relationships will create new synergies—providing institutional and organizational ballast to the Occupy movement while positioning labor as a social movement that speaks on behalf of all working people.
We recognize that the leaders of the future will emerge from this movement and that we must work to ensure that their voices are heard, their efforts supported and their skills sharpened and honed. Likewise, we must work to ensure that people of color and the working class, in all of its diversity, are represented at all levels of this movement.
As trade unionists, we often think in terms of the next contract or the next political campaign. But in this instance, we must resist any initiative to confine the scope and breadth of this movement. These issues go beyond the next election. If history has taught us anything, it is that we cannot run behind politicians. Rather, we need to get in front of them and set the terms of debate. This means that we must work to shift some of labor’s still considerable resources towards building a long-term independent movement accountable to working people.
Of all the lessons learned—or re-learned—this fall, perhaps the most important is the absolute imperative to stop bargaining against ourselves. Too often, the labor movement has followed this path to marginalization and defeat. This is a time for bold initiatives. This is a time to stop apologizing for who we are and what we stand for.
The vision that has drawn so many Americans to support the Occupy movement is neither radical nor alien. It is an expression of the American Dream of opportunity, fairness and justice. It is not that different from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights proposed nearly 70 years ago.
These goals should be within easy reach of one of the richest societies in the history of the world. They require only a political system responsive to the needs and concerns of the 99%. We need not be timid in calling for these things nor should we fear the certain counterattack from the 1%. Rather, like FDR, we should welcome their hatred.
The Labor Campaign for Single Payer understands that the fight for healthcare is inextricably linked to the fight to defend and expand the social insurance model that underlies this American Dream. This model must include access to decent jobs, affordable housing and higher education as well as the unrestricted right to organize. All who share this dream are our allies. Those who oppose it are part of the conspiracy of the 1% who seek to transform our social rights into commodities for sale to the highest bidder.
As winter moves in, we pledge to do our part to help this movement create a new spring for working people everywhere. Consistent with our grassroots approach, we will work to educate and mobilize rank and file members and local union leaders. We will work to ensure that the labor movement at all levels fulfills its historic role in the fight for social and economic justice. We will insist that the movement for Medicare-for-All single-payer healthcare embraces an inclusive social insurance model.
We stand in solidarity with the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO who have called on all unions to treat the Occupy sites as if they were union picket lines and pledge support for any worker who refuses to break up, “raid” or confiscate belongings of protesters. “Protest movements, like strike lines, are not 9-5 activities,” the resolution reads. They need to operate “24 hours a day, onsite and with proper protection including food, medical supplies, water and tents.” We also encourage the Occupy movement to explore new tactics to expand beyond the public square and into workplaces, college campuses and communities under direct economic assault by the 1%.
The stakes are high and we must rise to this moment. This is a time of tremendous opportunity. What we do this winter will help determine the fate of a movement that has been a long time coming.
“Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing and joy cometh with the morning.” — Eugene V. Debs