Following Is A Statement From Senator Jauch On The Senate Democrats Ongoing Efforts To Protect Worker Rights:
I am doing my job in representing the citizens of northern Wisconsin who have overwhelmingly expressed opposition to Governor Walker's plan to eliminate collective bargaining. Thousands of citizens have contacted my office to oppose Governor Walker's plan and they have asked me to seek a solution. Statewide public opinion polls indicate that over 67% of the public strongly disapprove of his proposal.
My colleagues and I took the decision to leave the state seriously. We had to take unprecedented action to respond to the unprecedented and unjustified assault on workers rights. Our decision to leave the state was to slow down the process and allow the public a chance to better know the harmful consequences of the budget repair bill and provide the public a chance to engage in the deliberation process.
Since we left the state hundreds of thousands of citizens have traveled to Madison to voice their displeasure regarding the bill. The more the public knows about the legislation the stronger the opposition to the measure.
The Governor, Senate Democrats and the unions are in the heat of an agreement regarding the plan to increase pension and health care employee contribution. If Governor Walker is serious regarding the fiscal concerns of the state then he should accept our offer to adopt the fiscal matters that will save $845 million and remove the collective bargaining provisions that are so strongly opposed by the public.
Since Governor Walker introduced this legislation, I have talked with Republican lawmakers and former Thompson Cabinet officials every day to seek a pathway to find common ground. Those conversations revealed that 6 or 7 Republican Senators hated the collective bargaining provisions but felt pressured by Governor Walker to vote for the bill.
The reality is that there is a strong majority of legislators who don’t want to get rid of collective bargaining but voted against the wishes of the constituents because they were compelled to vote with Governor Walker. Recently Representative Stone, a Republican candidate for Milwaukee County Executive, admitted that he voted for the budget repair bill but did not agree with getting rid of collective bargaining. I have spoken with a number of Republican representatives who voted for the bill and are hoping the Senate will adopt compromise language.
Yesterday Governor Walker said that he had been working day and night to find a solution to the issue. The fact is that he has held more press conferences blasting Democrats than there have been meetings. It took his Administration 18 days before a request was made for a meeting.
Last Wednesday evening my colleague and I received a call inviting us to a meeting in Kenosha with two members of his staff. Along with Senator Miller we met at 9:00 in Kenosha for an hour and half discussion.
We had a candid and professional conversation regarding several issues that may be concepts for an agreement, however, there was no agreement on either the process or the areas under consideration.
The following day I drafted some additional details for further discussion but upon receiving the memo my computer crashed as a result of a virus. I contacted his staff to call me so I could explain the memo. Unfortunately, they took it into Governor Walker and he held yet another press conference angrily denouncing the Democrats.
At my request the Governor’s staff met Senator Cullen and I at a meeting in South Beloit to consider possible agreeable items. After our two hour discussion I sent them a summary of those items which I hoped would be the basis of an agreement.
Governor Walker’s statement that Senator Cullen and I were working for an agreement so that he and I and a couple more legislators could come back to Wisconsin was an absolute lie. As leaders it is our obligation to find solutions to problems that constitute a win for the citizens of Wisconsin and Senator Cullen and I dedicated considerable time to meet that obligation. We had many conversations with his staff to indicate our desire to pursue solutions that would heal the deep divisions within the State Legislature and hopefully bind the wounds that divided Wisconsin.
Any serious leader does not negotiate contentious issues by press conference. His public announcement of what were supposed to be confidential discussions is a serious breach of faith. Furthermore, Governor Walker’s identification of Senator Cullen and me was intended to use us as a wedge in public opinion and showed he was not seriously interested in achieving a meaningful solution.
An election determines winners and losers. Governing requires leadership by public officials to develop policies that are considered a win for the state. Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to offer collective bargaining for public employees and public opinion soundly opposes the effort to become the first state in the nation to eliminate collective bargaining.
The Archbishop of Milwaukee said it best, “hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers.” As Pope Benedict wrote in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in veritate:
Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum , for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level. [#25]
This has become a protracted fight about unions when we should not lose sight that the ultimate goal is to protect workers rights as a moral imperative. These hard working citizens contribute to the public good and should not be considered the public enemy. They are hard working teachers, bus drivers, prison guards, snowplow operators, nurses, firefighters, clerks, and police offers whose contributions to the commonwealth make Wisconsin a great state.
This is an historic moment. We didn’t plan for it, but citizens have seized the opportunity to protect the values, traditions and rights that make Wisconsin special. I stand by my decision to leave Wisconsin to go to the Land of Lincoln to protect these values. When history records our time I wish to be on the right side of protecting workers and not on the wrong side of eliminating workers’ rights.
I hope that the Governor and the Republicans will soon realize that their obligation is to listen to the overwhelming majority of the citizens of our wonderful state and not adhere to the rigid ideologues who don’t care about good government in our state.
Wisconsin policies have always been a beacon to the rest of the nation. It is my hope that we can find a resolution that protects worker rights and taxpayer and preserves collective bargaining. Such an agreement can lead to unity instead of division and enable us to then work together to improve our economy and move Wisconsin forward.
Contact: Senator Jauch