Milwaukee, Wisconsin - The Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals (WFNHP) Local 5000 held a rally and picket outside of the Milwaukee home of Bernie Sherry, the CEO of Ascension Wisconsin, one of his many houses. The January 4 action was in response to the abrupt announcement of the December 23 closure of St. Francis Hospital’s Labor and Delivery (L+D) Unit. The staff losing their jobs as a result of this closure wants their union to back them in fighting to have their services reopen. WFNHP- a union of fighters- will do whatever it takes to reopen St. Francis’s L+D unit. This is not just standing up for the union jobs lost, but the fatal risk it will bring to the predominantly Latino, Chicano, immigrant and uninsured populations that this hospital mainly serves.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin - More than 60 workers and union members from Ascension St. Francis Hospital (SFH), together with community supporters, gathered outside Milwaukee’s city hall on the evening of December 20. The event was called for by the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (WFNHP) Local 5000, the union which represents nurses and technical and service employees at the hospital. The purpose for the rally was to raise awareness around the services being cut at the hospital, specifically management’s decision to close down the labor and delivery department. This closure isn’t only significant because of the jobs being lost, but because it is the only unit of its kind on Milwaukee’s South Side, home to many working Chicano/Mexicano families.
Oneida, Wisconsin – On November 9, over 50 people gathered on the Oneida Indian Reservation in northeast Wisconsin to show solidarity with the Oneida people and all indigenous people as a Supreme Court decision regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) looms. The crowd included members of the Oneida Tribal Nation, concerned community members and several organizations that helped facilitate the event. The gathered community members, both tribal and not, were met with hospitality from the Oneida hosts, with homemade corn soup and community-building conversation being shared before the speakers began. The first speaker had firsthand experience seeing the effects of harsh U.S. policy concerning the children of oppressed groups.
Madison, Wisconsin - At Madison, Wisconsin’s nine public libraries, residents can check out books of all kinds, from hardbacks and paperbacks to ebooks and audiobooks. They can check out movies as DVDs and Blu-rays. And since last year, library card holders can also check out electric bicycles. Madison’s public libraries are part of a growing number of bike libraries in cities and towns from coast to coast. A list of U.S. bike lending libraries curated by StreetsblogMASS reporter Grecia White documents 35 such programs, from Vermont to Texas. While they all look a little different and work a little differently, they all do the same thing — increase free access to bikes.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison was a hotbed of student radicalism in the 1960s. Unlike some other centers of campus opposition to the Vietnam War, left-wing activists there were among the first of their generation to organize around issues related to their own mistreatment as workers. In 1963, undergraduates employed in campus jobs formed a Wisconsin Student Employees Union to force the administration to raise their wages to the federal minimum (a 50 cent per hour increase). Seven years later, the UW Teaching Assistants Association organized the first TA strike in U.S. history, a 24-day walk-out that won union recognition. UW graduates shaped by that experience went on to play key roles in the labor movement, locally, state-wide, and in others states.
Racine, Wisconsin - Back in July, I took a weekend trip to Burlington, Iowa, to visit manufacturing workers at Case New Holland (CNH Industrial), who, along with their coworkers at another plant in Racine, Wisconsin, have been on strike since May 2. When I arrived, the early shift of picketers stood jovially together under the hot morning sun. Even at 10AM, the temperature was already a blistering 86 degrees, with humidity high enough that it made your clothes damp to the touch. The picketers didn’t seem to mind as they made their way slowly past the entrance to the Case New Holland plant, holding up a line of empty vans that had dropped off a shift of scab workers earlier. Workers wore “UAW 807 Solidarity” t-shirts and cracked jokes to one another as the hired security looked on from the other side of the fence, cameras at the ready.
Madison, Wisconsin - On September 12, a tentative agreement was reached between nurses at University of Wisconsin Health (UW Health) and administration over management recognition of their union, represented by SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin. Nurses at UW Health had lost their union after their contract expired in 2014 and the administration refused to bargain, citing Wisconsin's "Act 10" law. The effort for renewed recognition was restarted as of 2019. Demands to recognize their union, which represents approximately 2400 Nurses in Madison, had been rejected up to now. Nurses there submitted a ten-day notice to strike over recognition as provided by law, and had been preparing through the weekend to begin on September 13.
Dunn County, Wisconsin - Citizens of Dunn County, Wisconsin, have a plan to place national, publicly-funded health care for everyone on their November 8th county ballot. In June and July at meetings of the County Board of Supervisors, many spoke of a broken health care system and their proposal to fix it. After the third meeting, the Board voted unanimously to put the following question on the ballot: “Shall Congress and the President of the United States enact into law the creation of a publicly financed, non-profit, national health insurance program that would fully cover medical care costs for all Americans?” Located in central west Wisconsin and blessed with lakes and farmland, Dunn County is far from bustling cities.
A business model that allows workers to have a stake in how their employer pays and supports them while also tackling social justice issues is expanding in Madison and statewide. The worker cooperative model, which already has a history in Wisconsin and the city spanning decades, is one in which the business is equally owned and governed by its employees — they each get a say in their pay, benefits and how to divvy up company profits. In Madison, an accelerator for worker cooperatives that want to make that social impact was recently put together by Downtown startup promoter gener8tor and the Nehemiah Center for Leadership and Development. Also, a local worker cooperative called Roots4Change, which partners with health organizations to support Hispanic mothers through their pregnancies, is expanding.
Eleven hundred workers who manufacture agricultural and construction equipment for CNH Industrial in Burlington, Iowa, and Racine, Wisconsin, have been on strike since May 2. At the core of the strike is the company’s three-tier pay system. Workers hired before 1996 make $6 to $8 more per hour than those hired after 2004; those hired between 1996 and 2004 earn somewhere in between. Workers want to see at least the bottom tier abolished. Workers are also fired up that their counterparts at CNH’s non-union plants make an estimated $5.50 more per hour than the average union worker, according to UAW Local 807 President Nick Guernsey. “We're wanting parity between us and non-union plants,” Guernsey told the Hawk Eye.
In recent lawsuits, Enbridge has targeted individual tribal members and staff, seeking the court’s permission to question them under oath about their “thought process” in opposing renewal of the company’s easement through the reservation. For Bad River citizens and leaders, however, the issue has always been personal. Bad River or Mashkiziibii (Medicine River) has an abiding, irremovable quality for Ojibwe people. Central to their world view and spirituality, and an example of their sustainable connection with traditional foods and ways, Bad River is more than geography. The river and land represent Ojibwe blood memory, according to Aurora Conley, a citizen of the Bad River tribe and a member of the Anishinaabe Environmental Protection Alliance.
Racine, Wisconsin - CNH Industrial employees in Racine represented by the United Auto Workers labor union have been on strike for almost a full work week. A local union representative said they're fighting for higher wages and better COVID-19 protections. Members of UAW Local 180 bundled up as they picketed Thursday outside the CNH plant where Case tractors are made. A collective bargaining agreement between the union and the company lapsed at noon on Monday. According to the UAW, more than 1,000 members are on strike at CNH locations in Racine and Burlington, Iowa. Richard Glowacki, chairman of the union's bargaining committee and president of the UAW CNH Council, said spirits are high.
Wisconsin - With the passage of Act 10 in 2011, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, Republican Gov. Scott Walker declared war on the labor movement in general and on public sector workers specifically. Act 10 was a hammer blow that essentially stripped collective bargaining rights from public sector workers, made it much more difficult for workers to organize, and forced unions to take massive concessions on healthcare, retirement benefits, and much more. Soon after, in 2015, Walker signed legislation that turned Wisconsin into a “right to work” state, issuing another blow to unions in a state once heralded as a bellwether of progressive politics and the labor movement.
Green Bay, Wisconsin – About a dozen environmental activists took to the streets of downtown Green Bay Friday evening to protest a proposed oil pipeline reroute in northern Wisconsin. “We’re trying to raise awareness about Line 5,” said organizer Justice Peche. Canada-based Enbridge Energy is rerouting the Line 5 pipeline around the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation at the request of the tribe. About 12 miles of active pipeline pass through the reservation, but as easements have started to expire the tribe filed a lawsuit in 2019 to have the pipeline removed. The company is planning a new 41.2-mile section around the reservation, but tribal officials and activists are calling for greater scrutiny of the project arguing that construction and operation threatens rare plants and animals in the area.
No matter who you ask, whether it’s education association officials, university professors, researchers or the teachers themselves, they’ll all tell you the same thing: The number one problem facing Wisconsin’s rural school districts is finding — and keeping — enough teachers to teach in those districts. “The teacher shortage is an issue all across the country,” says Kim Kaukl, who worked for more than 30 years as a school administrator before becoming the executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WIRSA). “But it’s really exasperated out in the rural areas because of the location of many of our rural districts, especially when you’re trying to attract young people to come out to more remote areas.”