Weekend E Newsletter, October 27th
Sitting in the Uecker Seats
By Robert Kraig
For those of you who are not sports fans, the Uecker Seats are the worst seats in the ballpark. They are named after a famous Miller Lite ad from the 1970s where Bob Uecker comically is not permitted to sit anywhere in the stadium, and is even ejected from the “nosebleed” seats in the back corner of the park. The ad made Uecker a national figure. The term is so well known, you can buy Uecker seat tickets at the Brewer’s publicly owned ball park.
That’s how I feel when waiting to testify on the half billion dollar giveaway to the Milwaukee Brewers now pending in the State Senate. Representatives of the public are heard last, while the representatives of the Brewers and the major business associations in Wisconsin are given their typical luxury boxes and front row seats to the proceedings. They are also treated with great (bordering on fawning) deference despite their willingness to provide less than credible information, especially on the alleged public benefits of the deal. In the Assembly hearing a couple of weeks back, I waited almost five hours. This Wednesday’s Senate hearing was an improvement, I waited only 3 hours to speak, although I was the only witness against the bill, following a long line of testimony from the representatives of the corporate power elite of Wisconsin.
Because Citizen Action is one of the only named opponents of the bill, the media usually feels the need to mention us, such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story on Senate hearing, but typically they put us in the far back of the story, in the Uecker seats. WUWM Milwaukee’s NPR station did better, perhaps reflecting the more democratic nature of public broadcasting.
Nevertheless, the hearings and the media coverage symbolically represent Wisconsin’s broken democracy, where the corporate and special interest voice is loud, and the people’s voice is but a whisper. This explains the bipartisan support for the massive corporate giveaway despite 70% opposition to spending the money this way, instead of priorities such as public education and health care, in the only statewide poll that has been publicly released.
I will not restate our entire position here on the half billion dollar subsidy for the benefit of the ultrarich owner of the Brewers. In the last edition of Citizen Action Weekend I documented our history of opposition to corporate giveaways in the guise of economic development, stretching back to our accountable economic work in Milwaukee, and our opposition both the Scott Walker’s privatized jobs agency (WEDC), and to the infamous Foxconn boondoggle. We do believe a good deal on an improved Brewers stadium is possible, but only if our elected leaders negotiate on behalf of the public rather than giving away the store to the greedy few. You can read last week’s history of Citizen Action’s position on accountable economic development here.
I do have good news from this week’s Senate hearing, there are not enough votes in the Senate currently to pass the Assembly version of the stadium deal, and like the support the opposition is bipartisan. To pass in close to its current form, this bill likely requires a number of Democratic Senators to shift to support. The massive lobbying campaign by the Brewers, their many allies among the corporate elite, and Governor Evers could cause enough Democrats to buckle, choosing an ultra rich owner over the interests of their own constituents. That is why if you oppose the bill it is important to call your State Senator and urge him to slow down the process, and get a much better deal for the people of Wisconsin. You can find talking points in our letter on the bill that was signed by 4 additional social justice groups and a major union.
One tidbit I picked up at the hearing is disturbing if true. A number of unions supported the Assembly version of this bill, including building trades unions and unions representing stadium workers. This influenced many Assembly Democrats to switch sides and support the bill. However, the Assembly Republican sponsor of the bill, Rep. Robert Brooks, let slip in the Senate hearing this week that the bill in substance currently calls for the lowest cost bidders to get the lucrative contracts for the upgrades to the stadium. If true, this would be bad for union workers because they do higher quality work but can be undercut by non-union contractors that do inferior work. There are also no labor standards for stadium workers, despite the fact that the wages, benefits, and reported working conditions are poor, and compare unfavorably (to my understanding) to stadiums in Chicago and the Twin Cities. I don’t know whether the building trades unions got private assurances that the improvement work on the stadium will be done union, and whether the unions for the stadium workers got private assurances on improved labor standards. What is clear is that at best unions got the equivalent of the Uecker seats for their priorities, that is private assurances not in the legislation that will not be codified into law, whereas the owner of the Brewers got ironclad legal guarantees. This is a concern, given the pattern of Governor Evers leaving power on the table, and failing to use all of his bargaining leverage both in this instance, and the state budget where he made damaging concessions on voucher schools, public school funding, and shared revenue while never staging a full scale public fight. I wrote about this at the time in the Wisconsin Examiner.
Call your state Senator today at 1 (800) 364-9472, and tell them to slow down this process to get a good deal for the people of Wisconsin.
Attend media conference in Green Bay in support of BadgerCare Public Option Bill, next Tuesday, October 31st, Noon.
Join us for a media conference with Representative Kristina Shelton to hype up and support the BadgerCare Public Option Bill!
Citizen Action North Side Rising Organizing against Energy Burden
Citizen Action North Side Rising Organizing Co-op member and Team Leader Joann Johnson did a great job volunteering yesterday at Metcalfe Park Clean Up educating and organizing the community about the devastating impacts of outrageous energy costs on Milwaukee residents.
While there we handed out kits to help winterize your home, we educated people about how they can fight back against WE Energies two year 15% rate increase.
We are asking PSC to establish a test plan that caps Milwaukee resident’s energy costs at 2.1% of their income.
Take Action in support of test plan.
Citizen Action members join Agriculture & Rural Resilience Summit in Eau Claire
The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters hosted the Agriculture & Rural Resilience Summit in Eau Claire on October 21st, a continuation of the Academy’s Climate Fast Forward Conference, part of their Climate & Energy Initiative.
Citizen Action members from three counties in the Northwestern Organizing Co-op attended to help flesh out ideas to tackle climate change through natural climate solutions and climate-smart agriculture that build a stronger and more resilient future for rural Wisconsin and the state as a whole.
Pictured is Dr. Pamela Guthman, a Citizen Action member and population health nurse from Chippewa County, presenting information from a breakout session on rural infrastructure and access to resources.
Citizen Action Driftless Organizing Cooperative member spotlight, Wyatt Molling.
Wyatt Molling is not only an active Citizen Action Driftless Co-Op member but a leader who’s energy and passion for our work impresses everyone he meets. Joining Citizen Action at the age of 20, he quickly made his mark and found himself on the Driftless Region Co-Op’s executive board. He’s also been active with other advocacy organizations like Wisconsin Conservation Voters and the Human Rights Campaign.
Wyatt graduated from UWL with a double major in Political Science and Theater Performance and a minor in Ethnic and Racial Studies and a certificate of proficiency in French. He went on to teach in France for a year in the village of Sarrebourg. Not even being in another country could stop Wyatt from participating in CAW work. While in France he sat on our Spring 2023 Driftless Endorsement Committee, helping interview local school board and city council candidates for endorsement.
Since returning from France, Wyatt has been active in our healthcare work and chipping in at events and actions. He most recently attended our Day of Action in Pewaukee where we confronted Blue Cross Blue Shield about their abhorrent claim denial practices. He’s also attending our Movement Politics Academy with aspirations of either future campaign work or a possible run for office!
Wyatt told us “Being a member of CAW has allowed me to become a committed defender of the needs of my community. From healthcare to green energy, CAW has fought for our citizens and I’m proud to be a part of it”.
Thanks Wyatt for all you do to make your community and state a better place. The Driftless Co-Op is fortunate to have you!
To find out more about the Driftless Co-Op or become a member, please call or email me. Kristie Tweed, Driftless Co-Op Organizer; 608-317-1331, [email protected]
Building a Movement for Healthcare, One Hug at a Time
Julia Bennker and Kristin Deprey, our field organizers in Eau Claire, have been out knocking on doors and having real conversations about healthcare in Wisconsin as part of our campaign in support of the BadgerCare Public Option bill. They say people are eager to talk with them. They often wind up sitting on people’s porches, sharing stories.
Often, the healthcare experiences that people share are powerful, personal and painful. Many people are so grateful for the chance to share their stories that they apologize for taking up the organizers’ time. Of course, Julia and Kristin are grateful for this opportunity to make authentic connections with community members, and these conversations often end with a hug.
The “deep canvassing” model that we use at Citizen Action encourages this type of listening. By meeting community members, hearing their stories, and encouraging them to advocate for healthcare options, Julia and Kristin are building a sustainable long-term movement that can lead us to healthcare justice for all.
North Side Rising Leading on Nation’s Boldest Climate and Equity Plan
This Saturday, North Side Rising will welcome leaders in the fight for climate justice from our national affiliate, People’s Action, who will advise Milwaukee advocates on strategies to secure federal funding to fully implement Milwaukee’s visionary Climate and Equity Plan.
Spearheaded by Rafael Smith, Citizen Action’s Climate and Equity Director, the Milwaukee Climate and Equity Plan is an ambitious effort developed over four years. The plan provides a roadmap for revitalizing the city by addressing climate challenges while building racial and economic justice through an innovative green jobs and green infrastructure program.
The plan has already been approved, and the resources for transformative change are actually available. North Side Rising is ready to dream big–and then make this bold vision a reality.
Citizen Action Northwest Cooperative member Emily Berge is elected President of League Wisconsin Municipalities
Emily Berge, President of the Eau Claire City Council and a Citizen Action member, was unanimously elected as the President of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities at their annual meeting in Green Bay last week. Emily has served on the Eau Claire City Council since 2018 and previously served as the League’s vice president.
A highly influential organization, the League has advocated for the interests of cities and villages across the state for 125 years. Its members represent millions of Wisconsinites living in every area of the state, from Milwaukee to Superior. The League plays a key role in training elected officials and providing ongoing education for civic leaders.
Emily’s leadership is a shining example of the impact Citizen Action members can have in our communities and across the state. Congratulations to Emily on this statewide leadership achievement.
Citizen Action North Central Organizing Cooperative Update
Controversy continues to swell around the proposed restructuring of the Wausau School district. Because of declining enrollment, the board has been under a lot of pressure, for quite a few years, to consolidate the public schools. This has been very difficult, because very few people actually want to see their neighborhood schools close. The current proposal on the table was created with little to no input from the public. The worst part is, that they recently found out that the project would cost way more than originally thought, because more upgrades would need to be done than previously believed. Now, two other plans have emerged, and there is some concern that the Board President will not put them on the agenda. You can read more about this here.
If you believe that these other proposals should be on the agenda, please email James Bouche and the rest of the School Board at [email protected], and ask them to agendize the new plans as action items on the next agenda.
Founding member of the NC Organizing Co-op, and Wausau Alder, Tom Kilian, will be holding a listening session about what residents and people in the neighborhood would like to see done with 1300 Cleveland Avenue. This is a contaminated site, due to years of industry done right in a working class neighborhood.
This also happens to be one of the most diverse districts in the City. There has been a lot of disagreement on the City Council, about how to properly remediate this site. This listening session is aimed at finding out what residents want, and using that information to make an informed decision at the City level. Alder Kilian has built a reputation for being someone that really cares about what the people in the community want. Thank you for working so hard to represent everyone Tom!
Last week, Fair Maps advocates from all across the State drove to Madison, with very little notice, to express their opposition to the Republican proposals for new legislative maps. Despite the legislature’s last minute organizing of this event, a significant number of people dropped everything they had to do, and drove down to speak. One of those people was longtime Fair Maps advocate, and NC Co-op member, Hans Breitenmoser. Hans is a dairy farmer, and was in the middle of combining corn when he found out that this hearing had been scheduled.
He and two of his kids drove down together, despite all of the work needing to be done at home, because that is how important they believe it is to have a nonpartisan method of drawing Wisconsin’s legislative maps. Thank you Hans, and all others that are part of the Fair Maps coalition, that went down to speak. You are our voice!
Citizen Action in the News
Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig waited three hours to testify before a Senate Committee on the massive Giveaway to the Milwaukee Brewers. See good coverage on WUWM Milwaukee’s NPR and a mention at the back of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story, in other words the Uecker seats in the ballpark. Also see coverage of the coalition of progressive groups that have joined us in opposing this massive Foxconn-style giveaway to the Brewers’ owner in Field of Schemes, a national website based on a book by the same name which chronicles the abuses of super rich pro sport franchise owners, costing state and local governments $2 billion per year.
Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig was on the Earl Ingram radio program for the full hour to discuss the bipartisan support (and opposition) to the proposed half billion dollar subsidy to the Brewers ultrarich owner, and Citizen Action’s organizing strategies across Wisconsin.
Listen to“Fighting in the public interest” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast
We open with a somber discussion of yet another mass shooting in America where 18 people died and over 13 were wounded, bringing America’s mass shooting total to a staggering 558 this year.
Robert updates us on this week’s state Senate hearing the $546 million public subsidy for the Brewers’ owner. Currently there are NOT the votes to pass the Assembly bill in the Senate, unless enough Democrats change their votes.
Switching to allies who are showing how to use their power, we celebrate the UAW’s tentative agreement with Ford and wish more Wisconsin Democrats would be as strategic and willing to fight for what is right, even when others tell them it is not possible.
We invite our listeners to join us for next Tuesday’s BadgerCare Public Option media event at the Greater Green Bay Labor Council, at Noon, with the lead sponsor State Representative Kristina Shelton. Priscilla educates us about volunteer phone calls we started making to voters this week in support of the bill and urging people to call their state legislators and tell them to co-sponsor the legislation.
Finally, Robert also updates our listeners on local climate action planning in Wisconsin and why it is so important to advancing climate justice.
Listen to the show.
Social media post of the week