The Fight for Wisconsin’s Workers

I still remember that cold March day in 2011 when I stood in front of thousands of indignant Wisconsin workers and promised them that I would be their advocate. I had just returned from Illinois where fourteen of us Senators stayed for twenty-one days to deny Republicans a vote on Act 10, a bill that would go on to rob public unions of their right to collectively bargain.

This country was built on the backs of workers. My daddy was a steelworker, and it was thanks to the job security afforded to him by his union membership that I was able to attend college and make a future for myself. As the daughter of a union employee, I could not sit back and watch as Governor Walker threatened democracy in our workforce.

We all know how the battle over Act 10 ended, but I’m here today to tell you that my promise to fight for workers’ rights did not end on that cold March day five years ago.

I went on to oppose Walker’s “Right-to-Work” legislation when it was introduced in the 2015 session. This deceptively named bill was yet another attack on unions that allowed workers who don’t contribute to union fees to reap the benefits of union membership on the dime of those who do. I quickly realized this was the wrong legislation for Wisconsin workers, and made sure to deny it my vote.

More recently, I’ve spoken out against SB 49, a bill that would eliminate the state “prevailing wage” requirement for public works projects. Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws ensure that contractors can’t undercut labor costs. Our workers deserve to be compensated fairly, and I will continue to do everything I can to make sure this bill does not become law.

Even when members of my own party wouldn’t stand with labor, I went against my own leadership and supported the ratification of union contracts in 2010. When it comes to standing up for workers, I’m not new to this; I’m true to this.

It’s imperative that we continue to advocate for workers. It is a poor reflection of our society that someone working forty hours a week can live in poverty. I support a living wage; a wage I feel protects and provides for our most vulnerable communities. 

I invite you to join me in fighting for all of Wisconsin’s workers. Join my efforts to ensure tipped workers receive a minimum wage. Despite state law mandating that they receive a minimum wage after tips, 1 in 10 tipped employees report walking away from a shift without adequate compensation. I was appalled to hear this statistic, so this past session, I introduced legislation that would guarantee that tipped employees like bartenders and waitresses receive a minimum wage before they collect tips. Employers have been cheating tipped workers for too long and it’s long past time these workers are treated fairly.

The fight for the rights of Wisconsin workers has been a long, trying one, and it’s not over. The cold, hard truth of the matter is that there will likely always be individuals in this state whose interests are best served by a disempowered, undercompensated workforce.

But strength comes in numbers. When I saw one hundred thousand Wisconsinites protesting Act 10, I was reminded that together, we can make change.

When it comes to fighting for workers, I am not new to this; I am true to this. It’s not just a pleasure to serve, it’s a passion. 

Connect with Senator Lena C. Taylor on social media on Facebook.com/SenLenaTaylor, Twitter.com/SenTaylor or follow her at Instagram.com/Lena.Taylor.