Celebrating Labor Day Means Celebrating Workers
MADISON – As we approach Labor Day this year, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the hardworking men and women across the 74th Assembly district.
For the last few decades, here in Northern Wisconsin and across our nation, we’ve seen the promise of the American Dream come under attack. Not too long ago, it was possible to support a family of four on a single income in the manufacturing or service industry. It was possible to graduate high school and find a good paying union job—to not merely survive but thrive.
Achieving that today has gotten much harder. Years of lopsided policies that favor wealthy multi-national corporations over the American worker have had their toll. Adjusted for inflation, the median worker in Wisconsin was only making a single dollar more an hour in 2017 than they were in 1979, despite workers now being more productive and educated than ever before. In contrast, the costs of healthcare, rent and education have all skyrocketed in that same period.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said that those who were called to be street sweepers should “sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.’” There is dignity in all work, but policies that drive Americans to work two or three jobs to stay afloat do not dignify us. It is our job as legislators to pass policies that will restore that dignity to the workers of Wisconsin—policies that ensure good paying jobs are available to all who desire them. In the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, anybody who works 40 hours a week should earn enough to support a family and claim a modest piece of the American Dream. Those who have worked for a lifetime should be able to retire without living in poverty.
Since you first sent me to Madison in 2015, I have been fighting for legislation to lighten the burden on working Wisconsinites. This session, I coauthored a bill to establish the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Development Authority, a body that would invest in Wisconsin-based businesses and entrepreneurs to kick-start our renewable energy industry and bring hundreds of good-paying jobs all over this state. In addition to that, I’ve been a proponent of expanding Medicaid and indexing the Homestead tax credit to inflation—both of which would help working families in Northern Wisconsin get ahead.
Labor Day has been a federal holiday since 1894, and for well over a century we’ve been celebrating the contributions that working men and women add to this nation. Take time to enjoy this weekend, whether you’re spending it at a barbecue with family and friends or back at work on Monday. But also remember to reflect for a moment on the sacrifices made by workers in the past century to get us where we are today. Reforms that we take for granted—like the 40 hour work week or overtime pay—would not have come without the efforts of the organized labor movement in the first half of the 20th century.
You can rest assured that every time I go down to Madison, I’m doing so to advocate for the working people and retirees of Northern Wisconsin.