Partisan Supreme Court Further Divides Wisconsin When Unity is a Question of Life and Death

For Immediate Release: May 13, 2020
Contact: Robert Kraig, (414) 322-5324, [email protected]

Partisan Supreme Court Further Divides Wisconsin When Unity is a Question of Life and Death

Statewide: The Wisconsin State Supreme Court majority’s divisive and partisan decision late this afternoon, along with the obstructionism of the Legislature, risks making the worst public health threat in a century deadlier and the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression more catastrophic.

In a major national emergency–a pandemic, a depression, a major war–success depends on elected leaders (including judges) and the public putting aside the divisions of normal politics and pulling together to take effective and decisive action. Wisconsin has a history of doing just this, but the divide-and-conquer politics of the last decade, which have transformed the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Legislature, is now undermining the political and social unity needed to rise to the challenge.

It was not always this way in Wisconsin. During the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, the only comparable public health emergency, the definitive history concludes that the Badger State achieved a much lower death rate than the national average because of the vigorous and unified response. “Wisconsin was the only state in the nation to meet the crisis with uniform, statewide measures that were unusual both for their aggressiveness and the public’s willingness to comply with them.” The Wisconsin Supreme Court of 1918, in an era with a limited view of the power of government, took no action to obstruct this broad and unprecedented exercise of executive authority.

In stark contrast, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s deliberation and its decision on the current social distancing directive reveals a divisive brand of partisanship that will both make it much harder for the Governor and the Health Secretary to act, and will further undermine the public unity and social solidarity needed for an effective response.

First, the hyperbolic tone of several conservative justices in the oral arguments undermines public confidence in the process and will likely reduce adherence to social distancing. The justices often sounded more like partisan cable news or AM radio personalities than impartial judges sworn to impartially interpret the law.

Justice Rebecca Bradley claimed the Stay at Home order was “the definition of tyranny,” compared it to the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, and raised the specter of internment centers for victims of COVID-19. Bradley wondered how the order could be constitutional, despite the fact that the Legislature’s case does not question the constitutionality of the order, making the narrow claim that the statute calls for a rule that the Legislature can block.

Second, the Chief Justice resorted to divisive, and arguably coded racial appeals to minimize the threat of the pandemic and further polarize the state.

After being asked if the pandemic was a threat outside Milwaukee, Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth discussed the growth of hotspots elsewhere, citing the rising infection rate in Brown County.  Chief Justice Patience Roggensack shot back: “Due to the meatpacking, though — that’s where Brown County got the flare,” she said.” It wasn’t just the regular folks of Brown County.”

Whether she intended it or not, the separation of workers, many of whom are from immigrant communities, from “regular folks of Brown County” is a classic example of dog whistle strategic racism which is grossly inappropriate for any figure of public or social authority, let alone a Chief Justice. For Roggensack to make such a public statement shows reckless disregard for her office and undermines public confidence in the legitimacy of the judicial branch of government. It also wrongly assumes that the infection of one group of people in the community will not accelerate the pandemic for the entire population. Many of the most dangerous new hot spots in the U.S. are in regions with meat packing plants.

“The reckless ruling threatens Wisconsin’s pandemic response by removing our most effective containment tool in the middle of the crisis and further dividing the state in a way that is likely to reduce compliance with social distance guidelines,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “This is a nakedly political decision by a majority that has no regard for the plain wording of the law or the unprecedented public health threat we are facing. This decision shows a reckless disregard for the law. As in the lame duck ruling last year, no fair minded person thinks this court majority would have taken this action if the social distancing order came from a Republican governor.“

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Bill Kaplan: Former U.S. Sen. Johnson fundraiser tried to cash in on COVID-19

Photo by Gage Skidmore

The U.S., including Wisconsin, is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and catastrophic unemployment. Over 1.3 million COVID-19 cases nationally, including over 10,000 in Wisconsin (WI), with near 80,000 deaths nationally, over 400 in WI. “Twenty-five million workers or more could lose employer-based health insurance due to COVID-19 related unemployment” (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). Moreover, Trump and Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson are still trying to kill the Affordable Care Act (covers about 22 million) by lawsuit, regulation or repeal.

Johnson claims: “I am the working man”. However, throughout his tenure the millionaire businessman has tried to take health care coverage from hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites. But Johnson says he is a “change agent” and wants to help Trump in “draining the swamp”. What the heck does that mean? After Johnson was elected in 2010 he hired a lobbyist as his first chief of staff (WP). It gets worse.

Until recently, Mike Gula was a top fundraiser for Johnson and other GOP senators. However, the veteran Republican fundraiser abruptly changed course. He formed a company called Blue Flame to sell critically needed masks, ventilators and other medical equipment. Politico reported that Gula “looks to cash in on coronavirus”. Gula’s bio on the company website said: “Since 2009 Gula … has raised over $318,000,000 (eye-opening) for (GOP) House and Senate members … .” Not a word about any background in health care logistics or medical supply. State and local governments, desperate for personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other equipment, signed contracts with Blue Flame. But California and Maryland terminated their contracts when Blue Flame failed to deliver. Maryland GOP Governor Larry Hogan asked the state attorney general to investigate. Even the Trump Justice Department has started “a federal criminal investigation” (NYT). It looks like a price gouging-profiteering scheme built on lies.

Trump set the stage for this malfeasance. “In the early days of the pandemic (January), the U.S. government turned down an offer to manufacture millions of N95 masks in America” (WP). Trump and his cronies take no responsibility for PPE and other medical equipment shortages. Trump said: “You know, we’re not a shipping clerk”. And, governors were told don’t call unless they were “appreciative”. It is the “Wild West”, predatory capitalism. No wonder Blue Flame wanted to “cash in”.

Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers has been trying his best to function in this environment. He said: “Frustration level is high. … The federal government needs to help us … .” Evers put together a public-private state partnership to increase COVID-19 testing, but still needs chemicals and swabs for the tests. Moreover, rural WI is in a tough spot if COVID-19 spreads further. Rural hospitals are “already stretched to a breaking point” (Kaiser Health News). They lack staff, intensive care beds, PPE and other needed equipment. The outbreak in Green Bay should wake up state Republican lawmakers.

Johnson needs to address the corrupt conduct of his former fundraiser. He has not been “draining the swamp” of incompetence, corruption and Trump’s misdeeds.

–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

Citizen Action Weekly: Friday, May 8th

Citizen Action Weekly: Friday, May 8th

Friday, May 8th

Citizen Action launches #WhoCaresForUs?

Watch new video ad.

Americans are stepping up to care for one another during this pandemic. Isn’t it time we had a government #WhoCaresForUs? We need our state leaders to pass new legislation that ensures working people who care for us have the equipment they need to stay safe and that all of us can access the COVID tests and treatment we need to get and stay well. Contact your state legislative representatives 

Vote for Tricia Zunker for 7th Congressional District

Return your absentee Ballot today!

Your absentee ballot needs to be back to your municipal clerk by 8pm on election day. Either mail it back or drop it off with your municipal clerk so it gets there in time.

If you’re voting in person, make sure to take social distancing precautions. Polling places will be open in Congressional District 7 on May 12 from 7am to 8pm. To find your polling place, click here.

If you need additional help locating your absentee ballot or any other information about this election, call the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s voter assistance hotline at 608-336-3232

To volunteer from home making calls to voters for Tricia contact [email protected]

“Politicians, not regular justices” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

We discuss the damage the coronavirus is reaping, largely unmitigated by the federal government’s response, and the mounting reactionary/corporate pressure on state and local government to court disaster by prematurely scuttling social distancing. We review the shameful Wisconsin Supreme Court public hearing this week in the Vos-Fitzgerald lawsuit against Gov. Evers’ Stay at Home order. The tone and irrationality of the right-wing majority again embarrassed Wisconsin nationally, and revealed to the world a cabal of unethical politicians in robes masquerading as judges. We welcome Citizen Action co-op member Tricia Zunker to talk about her May 12th special election for the 7th Congressional District in Northern Wisconsin. We close with Citizen Action Northcentral WI Co-op steering committee chair Don Dunphy, to discuss the Citizen Action grassroots campaign for Zunker, and the importance of joining a regional co-op to build progressive power.

Learn more and join a Citizen Action’s Organizing Cooperative.

Listen Now – Episode #441
Download MP3

Citizen Action in the News

Executive Director Robert Kraig was on the Jeff Santos Show and discussed how to get a real progressive response to the pandemic. Listen here

Citizen Action has been in the news this week for our work to elect Jill Karofsky to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and to support Citizen Action co-op member Tricia Zunker in her run for Congress in the 7th District Special Election coming up Tuesday.  While we are listed along with all the big spending by corporate interests and right-wing billionaires, it is not really an apples to apples comparison. Whereas big corporations and rich reactionaries like the Koch brothers are corrupting our democracy, Citizen Action is restoring democracy by empowering average people to have a voice and seek a better state and country. By this standard, it is really an apples to poison fruit comparison.

Movement Politics Conversation with Candidates: Health Care

Last Saturday, Citizen Action hosted a Zoom candidate conversation about healthcare. The conversations was led by Health Care for All Director, Claire Zautke and Executive Director Robert Kraig and organized by Movement Politics Director, JoAnna Bautch.

State Legislators and 2020 candidates participated in a conversation on integrating advocacy and policies that support healthcare as a fundamental human right within their campaigns.

This is the first of more conversations with candidates and legislators about healthcare and other important issues. The next candidate Zoom conversation will be about the NEW Race, Class, Narrative Project. It will be on Saturday, May 23rd at 10am. Contact: [email protected] for more information.

Citizen Action’s Movement Politics program develops, prepares, and supports new political leaders that will support people-centered leadership. To learn more, please contact JoAnna Bautch, Movement Politics Director [email protected].

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is helping to prevent layoffs by expanding Wisconsin’s “work sharing” program 

The COVID19 crisis is crippling Wisconsin’s small businesses.  Citizen Action of Wisconsin members has been leading an effort to protect jobs, guarantee paychecks, prevent layoffs, keep people on their health insurance and get people the money they need to make it through this crisis.  We would like YOU to join our efforts.

Wisconsin’s unique “work sharing” program can help people RIGHT NOW!  Work sharing allows businesses and nonprofits to reduce employee hours while keeping those employees on the company health insurance and allowing employees whose hours have been cut to collect prorated unemployment.  This program also allows employees to receive the $600/week in additional unemployment funded by the federal government. For more information on work sharing as well as a video and an FAQ please visit this link.

In order to help families across Wisconsin we need to speak with employers and workers across the state.  You can join our statewide outreach team by joining us for a weekly Zoom call every Thursday at 4:00 PM.  For more information and to RSVP please visit the following link.  You MUST RSVP in order to attend.

If you know of 5-10 people who might be interested in learning more about this program I would be happy to set up a small town hall over Zoom.  Please reply to this email and pick a date/time for the town hall and we can get it set up.

Coffee with your Northeast WI Co-op: Covid-19 Relief, Saturday, May 9th, 10am

Grab your beverage of choice, comfy chair, and join our Citizen Action Co-op for coffee from the comfort of your own home!

Connect with other progressives and learn what Citizen Action is up to as we navigate this challenging time until we can meet at our favorite coffee shop again.

Co-op Organizer Noah Reif will share Citizen Action’s response to COVID-19 and how we can make organize on a local level to this extremely challenging time. If you are involved with another org and COVID-19 relief, feel empowered to share the work you are engaged in so we can support one another. The zoom link will be sent once you RSVP.

RSVP Here

Join us for Northwestern Co-op Virtual Coffee with Your Co-op! May 11, 2020 @ 10:00am 

Brew your favorite caffeinated (or not!) beverage and join your Northwestern Wisconsin Organizer, Breana, as she talks about Citizen Action’s work during the COVID-19 Pandemic and it’s rapid response for affordable and attainable healthcare as well as hearing about what members would like to work on during this time. This would be a great time for brainstorming and strategy building. The Zoom link will be provided via email after you register here for the event! See you then!

Health Care for All Co-Op Covid 19 Town Hall

This past Wednesday, the Co-Op sponsored a Town Hall to talk about how this is the time to push for change and how the pandemic has laid bare the inadequacies of our current healthcare system.

They talked about Citizen Action’s Theory of Change, addressing the 3 Faces of power. And framed the Covid 19 issue within that theory.

We have FIVE ways to be involved right now.

  1. Lobby around Who Cares for us (see above)
  2. Lobby the your Federal Representatives

Reach out to your House Representatives and call on them to co-sponsor the Medicare Crisis Program.

If you need a reminder, here an updated summary of the bill .

Take Action Here

  1. Phone Bank for Tricia Zunker, CD 7 Congressional candidate

Email [email protected]

  1. Join the healthcare co-op and officially support us
  2. Listen to our weekly podcast to stay up to date on what is next (see above).

Join Us for a Zoom Call Addressing Climate & Equity through our Food System

Join our Citizen Action Climate Justice team for a panel discussion on May 21th, at 6:00 PM. The Zoom call will inform citizens and the City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity, which has been charged with addressing long standing economic inequities in Milwaukee and what changes we need to be made to address climate change and inequality.

Panel members will help us explore:

  • How does our food system promote climate change?
  • How do we change our food system to mitigate climate change?
  • What are the food inequities in Milwaukee?
  • How do racial and economic inequalities affect health and access to healthy food?
  • What can be done to address food insecurity and promote access to healthy food in Milwaukee?

Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Take Our Survey: Citizen Action of Wisconsin is leading a people powered COVID19 relief effort

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is crafting a response to the COVID19 crisis that will help put money in people’s pockets, reduce unemployment, reduce utility costs, help small businesses, expand healthcare, fight climate change and protect Wisconsin’s green business sectors.

Some of our programs might be able to help you right now!  Please fill out this survey to find out if our programs can help you.  Please feel free to share this survey with anyone struggling during this time.  We would like to get as many people as possible to fill out this survey.

Facebook post of the week

“Politicians, not regular justices” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

“Politicians, not regular justices” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

We discuss the damage the coronavirus is reaping, largely unmitigated by the federal government’s response, and the mounting reactionary/corporate pressure on state and local government to court disaster by prematurely scuttling social distancing. We review the shameful Wisconsin Supreme Court public hearing this week in the Vos-Fitzgerald lawsuit against Gov. Evers’ Stay at Home order. The tone and irrationality of the right-wing majority again embarrassed Wisconsin nationally, and revealed to the world a cabal of unethical politicians in robes masquerading as judges. We welcome Citizen Action co-op member Tricia Zunker to talk about her May 12th special election for the 7th Congressional District in Northern Wisconsin. We close with Citizen Action Northcentral WI Co-op steering committee chair Don Dunphy, to discuss the Citizen Action grassroots campaign for Zunker, and the importance of joining a regional co-op to build progressive power.

Listen Now – Episode #441
Download MP3
Press Clips

Learn more and join a Citizen Action’s Organizing Cooperative.

Volunteer from home to help Tricia Zunker contact [email protected]

Links:
3.2 Million More Are Out Of Work As Jobless Claims Keep Piling Up.
U.S. Coronavirus Testing Still Falls Short. How’s Your State Doing?
Supreme Court takes up lawsuit seeking to end Evers’ stay-at-home order while economic toll rises.
GOP lawsuit to block Tony Evers’ order to stay home in hands of Supreme Court.
3.2 Million More Are Out Of Work As Jobless Claims Keep Piling Up.
State Meets Only 2 of 6 Criteria for Evers’ Reopening Plan as Cases Approach 9,000.
Local governments plan for all possible outcomes of Wis. Supreme Court ruling on Safer at Home order.
‘Everything is more complicated in Northern Wisconsin’: Voters in 7th district set to go to the polls — again.

Bill Kaplan: COVID-19, the haves and have-nots

The U.S. is a nation of haves and have-nots. On March 6 Trump said: “Anybody that needs a (coronavirus) test can have a test.” A lie. The Washington Post (WP) reported: “Trump’s projection of normalcy relies on special testing. … Trump, Vice-President Pence … are tested regularly, and all who enter the White House campus to meet with them are required to undergo on-site rapid tests … which provide results within 15 minutes.” The optics were so bad that Trump offered Congress access to the same tests. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell jointly said no, asking that the tests be given to “front-line facilities.”

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Because Trump lives in a protected bubble he can’t see the coronavirus carnage. Over 1.1 million cases nationally, including nearly 8,000 cases in Wisconsin (WI), over 66,000 U.S. deaths and about 350 WI deaths. Governors, including WI Democratic Governor Tony Evers, are on their own. Evers put together a “public-private partnership” to increase testing. However, WI is still hamstrung by Trump’s failure to provide necessary chemicals and swabs. And, while Trump orders workers back to JBS meatpacking in Green Bay, they lack protective gear and rapid testing.

Trump is betting his reelection on delusion. He projects an unwarranted optimism, but “days of denial, delays and dysfunction” (WP) can’t hide the economy’s free fall. 30 million nationally, including hundreds of thousands in WI, are unemployed. The NYT reports that the job losses are far worse as many are having trouble applying for unemployment benefits. It took weeks (computer issue) for thousands of WI unemployed to apply and receive emergency federal jobless benefits. Other WI workers, e.g., UW-System, face wage cuts and furloughs.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic the economy had deep fault lines. Soaring income inequality, wealth concentration, endangered pensions, skyrocketing personal debt and a horrific farm crisis. Trump’s trade wars, compounded by expenses overwhelming farmers’ revenue, led to over 2,000 failed dairy farms. Coronavirus is delivering a knockout blow to America’s Dairyland.

So expectations for congressional relief legislation were high. However, the Trump administration has stumbled badly. First, Trump removed the watchdog of the panel overseeing how coronavirus relief was administered, with predictable results. Less oversight means the haves do just fine while the have-nots are left out. The loan program for small businesses turned into a fiasco. The NYT reported: “Banks gave richest clients ‘concierge treatment’ for pandemic aid”. In contrast, typical small business owners came up empty-handed.

Meanwhile, years of GOP cuts to the IRS budget and antiquated computer systems meant relief payment delays. Millions are still waiting. Some payments won’t be received until 2021! But Trump’s self-promoting signature is on mailed checks. Worse, the relief legislation included a tax break for pass-through income. “82 percent of the benefits … go to about 43,000 taxpayers who earn more than $1 million annually” (WP). What did WI GOP Senator Ron Johnson, champion of reducing pass-through income tax liability, know? The haves are still doing well at the expense of the have-nots.

– Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

Citizen Action Weekly: Get Out The Vote for Tricia Zunker

Friday, May 1st

Vote from Home for the May 12th Special Election! 

Request your absentee ballot today! You have until Thursday, May 7th to request your absentee ballot online.

Plan ahead for August 11th Primary Election and request your absentee ballot today.

Contact your local leaders and encourage them to plan for safe voting options for voters this August and November, including mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters in your community, similar to what passed in the City of Milwaukee last week. See article about Milwaukee’s plan.

Make Phone Calls from home for Tricia Zunker for Congress
Volunteer virtual phone bank May 4th, 4pm 

Tricia Zunker, Citizen Action NCWI Member is currently running for House of Representatives in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District! Her special election is on May 12th so we are making a push for our volunteers to make calls to her district encouraging them to vote for Tricia as well as safe practices of how to vote during a pandemic.

Join us on Monday, May 4th, 4pm, as we train you on phone banking, how to talk to voters, and answer any questions regarding Tricia’s platform!

We have staff and volunteers all over the State that are helping to make these calls, and they could be the difference that it takes for us to win!! There are still many people that need help understanding the process to vote absentee.

Sign up here.

Co-op member Marcelia Nicholson became the first Latina and African-American woman elected Chair of the Milwaukee County Board. 

Citizen Action co-op member and Milwaukee County Supervisor Marcelia Nicholson will lead the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors as the new Chair. She was elected last Friday and is the first Latina and African American woman to lead the Board. She is also the third woman to hold the position.

“I thank my colleagues for their support, and I pledge to make the 2020-22 term one that is marked by a renewed spirit of collaboration… I pledge to do my best to empower this body to develop solutions to our most challenging problems and to serve the people of Milwaukee County with honor and integrity.” – Marcelia Nicholson

Supervisor Nicholson is a huge supporter of Citizen Action’s current City/County climate and equity campaign and has led efforts to successfully pass a $15 County living wage ordinance and adopting a County racial equity ordinance.

Nicholson is a former MPS educator and also a current leader in the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Union in Milwaukee.

Congratulations Marcelia! We look forward to working closely with you.

Co-op Member, Kristina Shelton, elected VP of Green Bay School Board

Citizen Action Northeast Co-op member Kristina Shelton was elected vice president of the Green Bay School Board by a vote of 6-1! Shelton is serving out her first full term as a school board member and has demonstrated strong progressive leadership throughout her tenure.

From her work to ban Native Mascots from the Green Bay School District to her collaboration with the district wellness committee to update policy to ensure equity of access to physical activity from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Even during the time of shelter-in-place, she has continued her work advocating for progressive policies and dedicating her time to the families she represents. Kristina was a leading voice in the recent efforts to pass the most comprehensive clean energy at a district level in the state. She has also volunteered her time passing out free meals to district children who would otherwise miss meals due to schools being closed for the remainder of the academic year.

“I’m committed to moving forward with each of you. If we can treat each other well, listen, experiment, hold each other accountable, and fight together, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish.” – Kristina Shelton, Vice President of the Green Bay School Board

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is proud of Kristina and all of our progressive elected officials who serve their communities.

Join us for Northwestern Co-op Virtual Coffee with Your Co-op! May 11, 2020 @ 10:00am 

Brew your favorite caffeinated (or not!) beverage and join your Northwestern Wisconsin Organizer, Breana, as she talks about Citizen Action’s work during the COVID-19 Pandemic and it’s rapid response for affordable and attainable healthcare as well as hearing about what members would like to work on during this time. This would be a great time for brainstorming and strategy building. The Zoom link will be provided via email after you register here for the event! See you then!

Coffee with the Northeastern Co-op: Social Distancing Edition, Saturday, May 2nd, 9:30 AM – 11 AM

Grab your beverage of choice, comfy chair, and join our Citizen Action Northeastern Co-op for coffee from the comfort of your own home! Connect with other progressives from northeastern Wisconsin  and learn what Citizen Action is up to as we navigate this challenging time until we can meet at our favorite coffee shop again.

Co-op organizer Noah Reif will share Citizen Action’s response to COVID-19 and how we can all practice community care. RSVP to [email protected] to have the Zoom link sent to you.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is leading a people powered COVID19 relief effort

Citizen Action of Wisconsin  has  been crafting a response to the COVID19 crisis that will help put money in people’s pockets, reduce unemployment, reduce utility costs, help small businesses, expand healthcare, fight climate change and protect Wisconsin’s green business sectors. You can learn more about the relief package we are working on by viewing this PowerPoint.

Some of our programs might be able to help you right now!  Please fill out this survey to find out if our programs can help you.  Please feel free to share this survey with anyone struggling during this time.  We would like to get as many people as possible to fill out this survey.  If someone can be helped by any of these programs Citizen Action of Wisconsin will be reaching out to them directly and getting them the help they need so share this survey far and wide!

Citizen Action in the News

Citizen Action Executive Director Robert Kraig discussed how to move the national Democratic Party left during the pandemic through organizing. Listen here.

Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig joined a panel of scholars from UW-Madison, Michigan State, and Marquette, for a 90 minute discussion of communication in the battleground states. Listen here.

“COVID-19 Hot Zone in Brown County” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

We review the latest Wisconsin coronavirus news, including the GOP lawsuit seeking to overturn the Governor’s Stay at Home order. Do the Republicans really have a case? The panel welcomes Up North News reporter Jonathon Sadowski to dig into the significant outbreak of COVID-19 in Brown County meat plants, the lax response from the corporate owners and county health officials, and Trump’s order to reopen infected packing plants nationwide. Supreme Court justice Dan Kelly announces he will unrecuse himself on the voter file purge case, and rule despite being fired by the voters. We also encourage everyone to request their absentee ballots for the primary and general elections, and if you live in the district the May 12th special election in the 7th Congressional District.

“Update: JBS in Green Bay announced it is resuming testing of its workers after we recorded this episode.”

Listen Now – Episode#440
Download MP3
Press Clips

Facebook post of the week

“COVID-19 Hot Zone in Brown County” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

“COVID-19 Hot Zone in Brown County” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

We review the latest Wisconsin coronavirus news, including the GOP lawsuit seeking to overturn the Governor’s Stay at Home order. Do the Republicans really have a case? The panel welcomes Up North News reporter Jonathon Sadowski to dig into the significant outbreak of COVID-19 in Brown County meat plants, the lax response from the corporate owners and county health officials, and Trump’s order to reopen infected packing plants nationwide. Supreme Court justice Dan Kelly announces he will unrecuse himself on the voter file purge case, and rule despite being fired by the voters. We also encourage everyone to request their absentee ballots for the primary and general elections, and if you live in the district the May 12th special election in the 7th Congressional District.
Listen Now – Episode#440
Download MP3
Press Clips

“Update: JBS in Green Bay announced it is resuming testing of its workers after we recorded this episode.”

Links:
US weekly jobless claims hit 3.84 million, topping 30 million over the last 6 weeks.
More than $290M in unemployment benefits disbursed in Wisconsin since March 15.
Unemployment phone problems persist; full call center staffing increases not expected until May.
Wisconsin coronavirus cases pass 6,500 as state says over 180 outbreaks are tied to nursing homes, other facilities.
Evers orders current budget cuts — but not furloughs. Yet.
Wisconsin Supreme Court ponders lawsuit against Safer at Home order.
Despite 330-plus Linked Cases, Green Bay Meat Plant Has Stopped Testing Employees. The County Has No Plans to Step In.
Some GB meat packing employees say recent safety changes aren’t enough.
OSHA Will Oversee Opening Of Meatpacking Plants Following Trump Order.
Number of positive coronavirus cases at Cudahy’s Smithfield plant ‘not yet known’; 503 employees tested, city says.
Special congressional election plans continue, after DHS reports COVID-19 related cases from last election.
New Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Voting By Mail Amid Pandemic.

Bill Kaplan: Stupidity vs. stay-at-home

Bill Kaplan: Stupidity vs. stay-at-home

Photo by: Gage Skidmore

Nearly a million coronavirus cases nationally, including 5,687 in Wisconsin (WI), over 54,000 U.S. deaths and nearly 300 WI deaths. Dozens of cases linked to in-person voting on April 7 in Milwaukee. And, hundreds of cases confirmed among workers at a JBS meatpacking plant in Green Bay. No zip code is immune.

Meanwhile: “The federal government scrambled Friday to stave off a potential wave of public health emergencies sparked by … Trump’s dangerous suggestion that injecting bleach or other household disinfectants into the body might cure people of the novel coronavirus” (WP).

Does Trump read his intelligence briefings? Back in January 2019, U.S. intelligence agencies said: “We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources …” (WP).

However, Trump is clueless, going from “liberate” (reopen) blue states to publicly criticizing Georgia GOP Governor Brian Kemp for reopening as coronavirus spikes there. The WP reported that Trump is “clear as mud”. Oklahoma GOP Representative Tom Cole has had enough: “You got to have some hope to sell people. But Trump usually sells anger, division and ‘we’re the victim’.” Moreover, Republican governors are showing public health leadership.

Maryland GOP Governor Larry Hogan, head of the bipartisan National Governors Association, said: “Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting … to get more (coronavirus) tests, not only from the federal government, but from every private lab in America and from all across the world.” Hogan, helped by his Korean-American wife, purchased testing kits from South Korea. Testing is central to reopening the economy, along with a decline in new cases, more personal protective and medical equipment, adequate hospital capacity and above all, contact tracing.

Massachusetts GOP Governor Charlie Baker has set aside $44 million to hire 1,000 people to do contact tracing to identify who has been exposed to coronavirus. This is a well-tested public health strategy. “The contact tracers … will inform the contact of approximately when they were exposed, and then take an inventory of symptoms, talk the contact through quarantine requirements, and help (if needed) arrange assistance with food or housing …” (NYT).

Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers is on the same page as both GOP governors. His “Badger Bounce Back Plan” is a public health (nonpartisan) proposal. Evers has tried to negotiate with the WI GOP-led legislature to invest in contact tracing. One idea advanced by the Journal of the American Medical Association has called for incoming medical students to be hired (pay and medical benefits) to do contact tracing. How about asking the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Medical College of Wisconsin to sign on?

Finally, Jay Timmons, head of the conservative National Association of Manufacturers, had a pungent post for extremist protesters demanding immediate reopening without conditions: “IDIOTS”. Is Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce listening? Doctors, nurses and public health leaders are. Stupidity is not an option.

–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

Citizen Action Weekly: Citizen Action Organizes Health Professionals To Speak Out Against Social Distancing Protests

Citizen Action Weekly: Citizen Action Organizes Health Professionals To Speak Out Against Social Distancing Protests

Friday, April 24th

Citizen Action Organizes Health Professionals To Speak Out Against Social Distancing Protests

In video statements recorded this morning, health professionals explain why the the Governor’s Safer at Home order is an essential measure for containing COVID-19, creating conditions to gradually and safely reopen the economy 

This morning, Friday, April 24th, before scheduled State Capitol protests against Wisconsin’s most effective COVID-19 containment measure, public health professionals taped brief video interviews to discuss the situation. These dedicated caregivers hope by offering this testimony to counteract the disinformation being spread through social media and irresponsible national media outlets to mobilize opposition to social distancing. The health professionals explained why maintaining social distancing is essential for saving lives, protecting front line caregivers and other essential workers, and slowing the virus enough to safely reopen the economy.

Elizabeth Riley: Elizabeth is a nurse who recently returned to Wisconsin after spending several weeks working in a Brooklyn, NYC Intensive Care Unit. She describes the horror of the ICU, the horrible and lonely deaths of her patients, and her dread that Wisconsin could become like New York City if the Safer At Home order were lifted.

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Jeff Weber: Jeff is the President of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. He worries about Wisconsin hospitals’ capacity being overrun with a surge of COVID-19 cases resulting from these protests and premature lifting of the Safer At Home order. He states we need two weeks of sustained decline in new cases before lifting the order.

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Lynn Carey: Lynn is a nurse practitioner, educator, and PhD as well as a double lung transplant recipient. Her advice for beating this virus: “stay home!”

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Victoria Gutierrez: Victoria is a frontline nurse in Madison. She is concerned that the capitol protest will cause an increase in COVID-19 cases and put strain on the already short supply of personal protective gear used by nurses.

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Mary Milton: Mary is a frontline nurse in Milwaukee. She monitors the protective gear used by her hospital’s workers. She says she has “never seen such suffering” as that of her COVID-19 patients.

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Emily Siegrist: Emily is a nurse and nurse educator from the Milwaukee area. She is worried about the lack of support for frontline health care professionals and that protesters today will not take protective measures.

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“Front line health professionals, many of whom are risking their own health treating the victims of COVID-19, are urging the people of Wisconsin to maintain social distancing as the best way to contain this deadly pandemic,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “If we are going to pull together and meet this challenge, we need to start listening to the scientists and the front-line caregivers, not the cynical politicians and billionaires seeking to exploit the crisis for their own purposes.”

For more detail on Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 policy proposals, see our March news release and memo to the Governor, and a recent column.

The State of Wisconsin’s unique “Work Sharing” program can help people keep their jobs and healthcare, reduce unemployment and offer relief to small businesses during the COVID19 outbreak.

One of the major parts of Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s people power COVID19 relief program takes advantage of Wisconsin’s unique “work sharing” program. This program allows employers to opt into a program so they can offer unemployment benefits to employees who have their hours cut without paying more in unemployment insurance. This program will compensate employees, allow them to keep their jobs, keep their health insurance AND be eligible for the federal unemployment benefit of $600 in addition to unemployment and pay for hours worked.

More information about the program, an FAQ, and a video explaining the program can be found here.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is working to get as many employers as possible signed up for this program as possible to prevent layoffs and guarantee people have a job to return to while still being able to pay their bills through this crisis. If you know any business owners or employees who could benefit for this program please direct them to this link 

TAKE ACTION: Contact Governor Evers and the State Legislature in Support of Citizen Action’s COVID-19 Response Platform

Citizen Action members are writing, calling, emailing, tweeting, and messaging our elected officials asking for free Covid-19 testing and treatment for all Wisconsinites. Get started HERE

Governor Evers and state officials moved decisively to mandate social distancing and Stay at Home, so we have a much better chance of slowing the pandemic and preventing our hospitals from being overwhelmed.

The next critical thing Wisconsin can do is universal COVID-19 testing and treatment. This is the only way to identify everyone who has been infected, and interrupt the deadly chains of disease transmission. We need to start by testing and treating everyone with symptoms, and then test community-wide to identify seemingly healthy people spreading the infection.

First, we must make cost-free all medical follow up and treatment that results from seeking a test, both for COVID-19 and any other urgent medical issues that are discovered. Second, we must make it crystal clear to the public that they will receive no medical bills. This is the only way to assure that hard pressed working and middle class Wisconsinites are not deterred from testing and treatment by ruinous costs.

Citizen Action has a commonsense COVID-19 health care plan.

1) Use emergency powers granted by the federal government to deploy BadgerCare to guarantee that everyone has health coverage during the pandemic. These powers include removing all barriers to quick enrollment, cost sharing, and work requirements, suspension of cancellation, eliminating cost sharing and work requirements, and allowing medical providers to presume that uninsured people are eligible.

2) Immediately expand BadgerCare by accepting the Medicaid Expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act. This would both cover at least 75,000 more people, and free up $340 million that can be immediately deployed in the fight to contain COVID-19, including Wisconsin getting its fair share of testing kits and critical medical supplies.

3) Mandate that health insurance plans pay fully for all treatment resulting from seeking medical attention for COVID-19. So far, Wisconsin has only recommended that insurers suspend copays and deductibles. If this creates too much of a burden on health insurers, Wisconsin can suspend hospital price gouging by requiring them to accept Medicare rates for all treatment that results from a COVID-19 test.

Send an email today to Governor Evers and state legislators. 

Driftless co-op COVID19 relief planning town halls

The Citizen Action of Wisconsin Driftless Co-op is hosting a series of planning town halls to craft a relief effort during Wisconsin’s COVID19 outbreak. We are building a plan to address concerns around healthcare, utilities, mortgage/rent payments, and small business relief. We would like to hear from you as we build these plans. Please RSVP to join one of these upcoming town halls co hosted by Driftless co-op members.3

Lewis Kuhlman COVID19 relief planning town hall 4-28, 6:00 to 7:00 (shared with La Crosse DSA members) More Information.
Joni Anderson COVID19 relief planning town hall 4-29, 3:00 to 4:00 More information.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is leading a people powered COVID19 relief effort

Citizen Action of Wisconsin  has  been crafting a response to the COVID19 crisis that will help put money in people’s pockets, reduce unemployment, reduce utility costs, help small businesses, expand healthcare, fight climate change and protect Wisconsin’s green business sectors. You can learn more about the relief package we are working on by viewing this PowerPoint.

Some of our programs might be able to help you right now!  Please use fill out this survey to find out if our programs can help you.  Please feel free to share this survey with anyone struggling during this time.

Help Elect Tricia Zunker for Congress, Tuesday, May 12th

If you live in CD 7 you should apply today for your absentee ballot!

The 2020 election fight continues in the 7th Congressional District where Citizen Action co-op member Tricia Zunker, is running to replace Sean Duffy. The election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12th.

We need your help making calls! Please contact your regional co-op organizer to get involved from home.

Candidate town hall with Co-op member and Congressional candidate Dr. Mark Neumann

This past week the Driftless co-op hosted a candidate town hall with Dr. Mark Neumann who is running for Congress in Wisconsin’s 3rd congressional district.  Topics included the need for single payer healthcare, Israel and Palestine, environmental concerns, how to work with those with a different political viewpoint and the need for radical empathy in American Politics.  You can view a recording of the town hall at this link.  Citizen Action will be reaching out to Congressman Ron Kind, Mark’s primary opponent to offer the opportunity for a town hall as well.

Citizen Action in the News

Citizen Action Director Robert Kraig discussed the social distancing protests, and the COVID-19 situation in Wisconsin for an hour on the Earl Ingram Radio Show. Listen here.

Two Citizen Action members were highlighted for their role in the Milwaukee City-County Climate & Economic Equity Taskforce in the Shepherd Express. The task force is the centerpiece of Citizen Action’s strategy to initiate a just and racially equitable climate transition in Southeast Wisconsin.

Citizen Action Director Robert Kraig discussed why conservatives are ideologically blind on COVID-19, and how the Biden campaign can be made more progressive, for an hour on the Jeff Santos Radio show. Listen here.

“Capitol COVID crisis” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

The GOP war on public health continues in Wisconsin with Republican legislative leaders appealing to the right-wing Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn the Governor’s stay at home order and inciting dangerous protests at the state capitol scheduled for Friday. We welcome attorney Mark Thomsen, who specializes in medical malpractice and nursing home neglect, to discuss Speaker Vos’s repugnant amendment to COVID-19 relief legislation which could make it impossible to sue for any kind of nursing home abuse. The amendment was shamefully introduced on behalf of the WI Hospital Association, WI Medical Society, and WI Assisted Living Association. We close with a look at this fall’s state legislative elections and why they are so important to the healthy and prosperity of Wisconsin.

Listen Now – Episode #439
Download MP3
Press Clips

Facebook post of the week

“Capitol COVID crisis” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

“Capitol COVID crisis” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

The GOP war on public health continues in Wisconsin with Republican legislative leaders appealing to the right-wing Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn the Governor’s stay at home order and inciting dangerous protests at the state capitol scheduled for Friday. We welcome attorney Mark Thomsen, who specializes in medical malpractice and nursing home neglect, to discuss Speaker Vos’s repugnant amendment to COVID-19 relief legislation which could make it impossible to sue for any kind of nursing home abuse. The amendment was shamefully introduced on behalf of the WI Hospital Association, WI Medical Society, and WI Assisted Living Association. We close with a look at this fall’s state legislative elections and why they are so important to the healthy and prosperity of Wisconsin.

Listen Now – Episode #439
Download MP3
Press Clips

Links:
26 million have sought US jobless aid since the virus hit
Lawmakers advance small business relief bill without extra cash for states.
Wisconsin sees jump in coronavirus cases as golf courses plan to open and some local leaders map out how to ease restrictions.
Despite rejected permit, organizers forge ahead with Friday rally in Madison to reopen state.
What’s going on with Reopen Wisconsin? The right-wing interests, government employees and healthcare workers in the private Facebook group planning a rally on Friday.
‘Reasonable,’ or ‘repugnant?’ Wisconsin lawyers, health care groups debate fallout of COVID-19 legislation changes.
Legislative Democrat will run for re-election! After many announced retirements, Assembly Democratic leader Gordon Hintz says he plans to run again.