Tag: Forward Institute

Jeff Smith outlines what he’d do if elected Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

Make no mistake about it, Former Wisconsin State Representative Jeff Smith has an actual plan of what he’d do if elected Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chairperson, and he’s going to run the party as a progressive organization whose main goals are helping progressive-minded people vote and promoting progressive values across the entire state of Wisconsin.

Smith, if elected to lead the Democratic Party in the state that will likely decide control of the White House and the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections, has promised to:

  • Work with whoever is elected to be the new leader of the DPW County Chairs Association (DPW CCA)
  • Direct county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin to help voters obtain Voter IDs in order to allow them to vote (Wisconsin’s discriminatory Voter ID law will go into effect at the next election of any kind held in Wisconsin)
  • Implement new DPW messaging based on recommendations by Scott Wittkopf of the Forward Institute
  • Provide proper support for Democratic candidates, campaign managers, and volunteers in Wisconsin
  • Open year-round DPW field offices in every region of Wisconsin
  • Help county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin maintain a strong online presence

Notice that Smith made absolutely no mention of Scott Walker in his press release. That’s because Walker is no longer trying to hide the fact that he doesn’t care about Wisconsinites, and that provides a great opportunity for Wisconsin Democrats to lay out their own vision for Wisconsin’s future.

Jeff Smith is the only one of the five candidates for DPW Chair who, at least to my knowledge, has laid out a highly-detailed plan for rebuilding the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and that’s why I encourage DPW Convention delegates to vote for Jeff Smith.

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Wisconsin Democrats and progressives, I’m proud of you all

Sadly, the Wisconsin wage theft (i.e., right-to-work) bill has passed both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

However, I’m proud of how Wisconsin Democrats and progressives spoke out and fought against the wage theft legislation.

I’m proud of Scott Wittkopf, Julie Wells, and the rest of the team at the Forward Institute, Wisconsin’s progressive think tank, for encouraging progressives to use better messaging against horrible wage theft legislation. You have been wonderful advisers of the Wisconsin progressive movement, and I hope that more progressives take your group’s advice.

I’m proud of Lori Compas of the Wisconsin Business Alliance, Wisconsin’s progressive business group, for exposing the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the main right-wing business group in Wisconsin that supported the wage theft legislation, as an organization that represents very few of its own members. You are truly the heart, soul, and brains of the progressive movement in Wisconsin, I wish there were more people on the face of this Earth that are as cool as you are.

I’m proud of Rebecca Kemble of The Progressive magazine for filming testimony and state legislative speeches in opposition to the wage theft legislation. You have truly been the eyes and ears of the progressive movement in Wisconsin, and I hope you win your election to the Madison Common Council next month.

I’m proud of those who protested, testified, blogged, posted on social media, and/or otherwise spoke out against the wage theft legislation in Wisconsin. Those who spoke out against wage theft include Heather DuBois Bourenane, Lisa Mux, Cheri Goetz, Jeff Smith, Randy Bryce, Jennifer Epps-Addison, Phil Neuenfeldt, John “Sly” Sylvester, John Nichols, Jenni Dye, Zach Wisniewski, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Meg Gorski, and countless others. Thank you all!

Last, but certainly not least, I’m proud of Wisconsin State Legislative Democrats for strongly opposing wage theft legislation from the moment Republicans signaled their intent to enact the legislation until the final vote was cast in the state assembly. Your opposition to the wage theft bill in Wisconsin is some of the strongest opposition to anything I’ve seen from Democrats in a long time.

I’ve never been prouder of a group of people than I am of Wisconsin Democrats and progressives who strongly opposed the wage theft legislation. To use a phrase that the odious Joe McCarthy turned into an epithet many decades ago, I’ve been a fellow traveler of the Wisconsin progressive movement despite being a lifelong Illinoisan who has never been to Wisconsin. I would love nothing more than to be able to visit Wisconsin someday in order to meet those wonderful Wisconsinites who stand for progressive values.

A tale of three Wisconsin Democrats on economic messaging, part two

You may remember a blog post I wrote late last year on here in which I compared the political messaging of three Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Legislature, State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, and State Representative Melissa Sargent, when it comes to so-called “right-to-work” legislation, which is actually wage theft legislation since it allows non-union employees at a shop in which wages and other benefits are determined by a collective bargaining agreement between organized labor and management to effectively steal wages and other benefits without paying for them in the form of union dues.

Now, that Wisconsin Republicans are formally pushing to implement wage theft legislation in Wisconsin, I’d figure I’d analyse the press releases that Barca, Shilling, and Sargent sent out earlier today.

Here’s the key part Barca’s press release:

“Governor Walker has called so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation a distraction and apparently that’s exactly what he wants. By rushing to pass Right to Work in less than a week, clearly the governor and Republican legislators want to distract from how destructive their budget is for Wisconsin’s workers, students and middle-class families.

“Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and ‘Right to Work’ would only make things worse. In fact, the average worker in Right to Work states makes between $5,000 and $6,000 less than the average worker in other states. And calling an extraordinary session will make the budget disaster Republicans have created worse since we’re already scheduled to be in session the following week anyway. What’s the emergency?

Here’s the key part of Shilling’s press release:

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling released the following statement regarding the call for an extraordinary session of the Legislature to take up so-called “Right to Work” legislation:

“It is absurd that Republicans would fast-track legislation to interfere with private business contracts and lower wages for all Wisconsin workers at a time when our state is facing a massive $2.2 billion budget crisis.

Here’s the key part of Sargent’s press release:

“Let’s call this what it really is. Plain and simple, this is a wage theft bill,” stated Rep. Sargent.

[…]

“It is important that the treatment of our workers reflects the challenges and dangers that they face on a daily basis. This proposal would also suppress wages for the true profit creators, the workers, which are already growing at a slower rate than the national average, and further polarize our state,” continued Rep. Sargent.

“People struggling to find work and stay in the middle class do not need this divisive legislation. Instead, we should be supporting workers’ rights and helping to build the economy. I know that workers deserve the freedoms that unions provide. The freedom to take a sick day if they need to get well or help take care of a family member, the freedom to earn a family sustaining wage, and the freedom to work in a safe environment are things that I will always fight for.”

While Barca and Shilling are talking about the negative effects of wage theft legislation, such as driving down wages and interfering with negotiated contracts, they’re still primarily referring to the legislation as “so-called right-to-work” legislation, which does nothing more than reinforce the right’s absurd talking point about union busting and wage theft. Sargent, on the other hand, is referring to right-to-work legislation as “wage theft” legislation, which reinforces the notion that such legislation allows non-union workers to effectively steal union-negotiated wages and benefits without paying for them, is referring to workers and consumers as “profit creators” (after all, without people earning salaries, there’d be nobody to buy goods and services and help businesses prosper), and is talking about the various freedoms that unions and workers’ rights provide. I find Sargent’s messaging, which is recommended by the Forward Institute, a Wisconsin-based progressive think tank, to be far more effective than the messaging that most other Democrats use.

A tale of three Wisconsin Democrats on economic messaging

Most, if not all, Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Legislature are opposed to so-called “right-to-work” legislation that allows non-union members to benefit from union contracts without paying union dues, but, when it comes to conveying their opposition to right-to-work legislation that Republicans intend to propose in Wisconsin sometime after the new state legislature is sworn in, some Democrats are using different messaging than others.

Peter Barca, the Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Kenosha, is mostly railing against political polarization in his opposition to right-to-work legislation:

After (Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald) indicated the Senate would move quickly on right-to-work, Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca called on Gov. Scott Walker to bring discussions to a halt.

Barca, a Kenosha Democrat whose district includes a portion of Racine County, said the issue would be too polarizing when the parties should focus on working together.

“I call on Gov. Walker to put the brakes on this divisive issue that clearly will damage Wisconsin’s middle class,” Barca said in a statement. “As the governor himself previously indicated, this would be an extremely polarizing policy at a time when we should be working together to improve Wisconsin’s economy.”

Jennifer Shilling, the Minority Leader-designate of the Wisconsin State Senate from La Crosse, is trying to play the “Republicans in disarray” card in her opposition to right-to-work legislation:

Both Barca and Shilling are using the wrong kind of messaging when it comes to opposing so-called “right-to-work” legislation, since they’re mostly talking about things like political polarization and division (or perceived division) within the Republican Party of Wisconsin and not talking about how terrible the legislation would be for Wisconsin. In fact, I’ve seen far too many Democrats try to duck certain economic issues entirely in their messaging.

One state legislator in Wisconsin who is using messaging that actually attacks right-to-work legislation is Melissa Sargent, a very progressive Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Madison. Earlier this month, Sargent slammed right-to-work legislation by calling it “wage theft” legislation and referred to consumers, who, by spending money on goods and services, are responsible for the vast majority of economic activity in this country, as “profit creators”:

By referring to so-called “right-to-work” legislation as “wage theft”, Sargent is criticizing right-to-work legislation itself for what it really is: a right-wing plot to drive down the wages and benefits of workers. By referring to consumers as “profit creators”, Sargent is emphasizing that, when workers earn money at their jobs, they stimulate the economy by spending it on groceries, gasoline, and other goods and services. Sargent is using the recommended messaging of the Forward Institute, a Wisconsin-based progressive think tank led by, among others, Scott Wittkopf and Julie Wells, when it comes to opposing right-to-work legislation, and Sargent is the only Democratic state legislator in Wisconsin that I know of who has used at least some of the Forward Institute’s economic messaging.

There are both right ways and wrong ways to oppose right-to-work legislation, which is the moral equivalent of legalizing shoplifting because it allows non-union workers at any given workplace to benefit from the wages, benefits, etc. negotiated by a labor union without paying for the wages, benefits, and so on in the form of union dues.