With protesters both inside and outside the Capitol, the Wisconsin State Senate rammed through right-to-work legislation last week under special rules that limited debate and public input. UFCW members were among the thousands in Madison who rallied, met with state senators, and gave testimony to the committee considering the bill.
Miguel Perez, a UFCW Local 1473 member who works at Klements Sausage in Milwaukee, felt that passing right-to-work would move Wisconsin in the wrong direction.
“I don’t want to see this law passed because it will make life more difficult,” said Perez. “We work hard to earn fair wages and benefits and this law just makes it harder to achieve that.”
Many UFCW members were inspired by the strong display of solidarity throughout the Capitol.
“The scene today has been indescribable to me,” said UFCW Local 1473 member Lori Wood, who works at Pick ‘n Save in Kenosha. “The camaraderie between so many Wisconsinites has been great. I don’t feel like people should be able to come into the workplace, not pay their fair share, and enjoy the same protections, wages, and benefits that we fight so hard for. It’s inherently unfair. I want to see the legislature create good jobs and this law just brings bad ones.”
Joseph Mikich, a UFCW Local 1473 member who works at Wisconsin Vision, felt personally attacked.
“This is a direct attack on my wages and benefits,” said Mikich. “I’ve worked at a number of non-union stores. My current union job blows all of those out of the water. I make more, I get raises, I have better benefits, and I’m trained so that I can climb up the ladder. I’m scared all these opportunities I’ve enjoyed are going to be taken away.”
For many, the climb back up from the depths of the Great Recession has been slow and hard. There is widespread worry that right-to-work would push people back down.
“What concerns me most about right-to-work is our economy,” said UFCW Local 1473 member Valerie Truman who works at Birds Eye. “If people can’t be paid what they deserve I don’t see how our state can stay strong. We want a brighter future. The rally today was so loving and supportive because everyone here is being honest about their concerns. It’s a necessity that this bill doesn’t pass. We deserve good laws, not laws that will hurt us.”
One of the major highlights of the day was seeing five-year UFCW Local 1473 member Tyrone Sutton, who works at Fair Oaks Farms in Kenosha, address the crowd from the Capitol steps.
“This law directly attacks working people all across Wisconsin,” he said. “These politicians are stripping us of our stability. It’s like kicking a chair under our feet. The benefits we have earned by sticking together shouldn’t be taken away. The stakes are too high. We will not back down.”