Scores of AFT-Wisconsin members joined the thousands of Wisconsinites that converged on the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 24, to protest legislation designed to weaken private sector unions. (Be sure to check out our post on what you can do to stop so-called "right to work" legislation!) And while union members and community supporters rallied outside, many more were making their voices heard inside the Capitol, registering their opposition to the bill, offering testimony about why it's wrong for Wisconsin, and holding a Solidarity Singalong in the rotunda.
AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas was among those testifying at the Senate hearing, during which she offered the following testimony:
"I’m a school teacher in the Superior school district and I’m the president of the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin. I’d like to ask each member of this committee to consider one question: Why? Why are we calling an extraordinary session to consider this bill? We all know that Wisconsin has been at or near the bottom of the Midwest in job growth for the last few years. All you have to do is look around Superior and other similar towns and cities in Wisconsin to see where the jobs used to be. But when you talk to people who are looking for work, the jobs they’d most like to find are so often good union jobs. People know that a strong union means a job that pays fair wages and provides safe working conditions. So why fast-track legislation that’s designed to threaten those jobs?
"The truth is that we have decades of data showing that so-called “right to work” laws are wrong for job growth. The majority of the ten states with the highest unemployment rates have these laws in place. Moreover, we know that people in states with these laws have significantly lower wages, are more likely to lack health insurance, and are more likely to die on the job. Why should we be pushing legislation that will attack the ability of Wisconsinites to work together for fair wages and safe working conditions?
"I urge members of the committee to focus on what’s been proven to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. We know that raising the minimum wage, accepting federal funding to expand Medicaid, and addressing the student loan debt crisis would put money in the pockets of Wisconsin’s citizens—money that they would then spend to create jobs and rebuild our state’s economy. The legislation under consideration today would do the opposite—take money out of the pockets of working Wisconsinites by suppressing their wages. Rather than spending time on legislation that will hurt Wisconsin’s citizens, let’s work together for a Wisconsin that works for all of us."