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OWR Statement on The Justice Department’s Jacob Blake Decision

10/9/2021

Yesterday, we learned that the Justice Department will not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against Kenosha Police Department officer Rusten Sheske for his involvement in the Aug 23, 2020 shooting of 30-year-old Jacob Blake. Not only is this a slap in the face to the Blake family, but to all who stood and protested nationally, for weeks on end, in the name of justice. Despite the massive protests following the death of George Floyd, and despite campaign promises of many opportunistic politicians; we continue to see police commit heinous human rights abuses with complete impunity across this nation. This is not a failure of the police departments themselves, but the failure of a system that refuses to hold power accountable. Communities of color are supposed to look to the justice system for protection. How can this be possible when time and time again the system proves the protection of institutions is more important than the protection of black lives? Agree with the wording or not, calls to defund the police were born of these continued injustices. The system was built not to protect and serve communities of color, but to conquer and control them. It is clear that this system cannot be reformed. A fundamentally broken system leaves no other option than being torn down and built anew. America requires a justice system that puts human life first, not property, not capital, not profits. It is time for the justice system to reflect the constitutional value that all are created equal. Until there is justice for all, there can be no true justice. 

Our Wisconsin Revolution calls for an end to qualified immunity and broken windows policing, and for police, who are involved in violent cases, to be independently investigated and prosecuted. We stand firmly behind the Blake family and the activists who continue to fight for a justice system that treats communities of color with respect and dignity.

Executive Director

Andre Walton

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Our Wisconsin Revolution Appoints New Executive Director

Today Our Wisconsin Revolution, an independent social justice organization, announced that it has appointed Andre Walton as their new Executive Director. Andre graduated from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, where he majored in General Management. Andre is a committed activist that has worked to get money out of politics, worked on Mike McCabe’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign, as an organizer, and has fought for social reform in this state. We are proud to have Andre as our new Executive Director, and look forward to seeing him bring a fresh new perspective to this organization. 

On his hiring, OWR’s new Executive Director Andre Walton had this to say. “All my life I’ve struggled socially and economically to get by in life. As I grew older I learned a lot of what I went through was directly tied to politics and the unjust nature of the system that we live in. I will use this opportunity to fight against the system that holds people down, and will continue to hold politicians accountable who do not adequately represent their constituents. It’s time we put the power back where it needs to be, and that’s in the hands of the people.” 

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Adding Insult to Injury

Republicans who control both houses of Wisconsin’s legislature have signaled they intend to gavel in and immediately gavel out of a special session called by Governor Tony Evers on Medicaid expansion without debating or voting on the proposed legislation. This childish response of state legislative leaders to the governor’s call to action is a classic example of adding insult to injury.

The injury is foolishly turning down $1.6 billion in available federal funds, denying insurance coverage to 91,000 people who stand to be covered if the funds are accepted, and causing state taxpayers to pay more to insure fewer. Adjourning without debating the issue is the insult.

Our Wisconsin Revolution is one of more than 40 groups that are part of the Coalition for a Just Wisconsin Budget working together to advocate for Medicaid expansion among other things. The coalition is committed to continuing to work to expose the folly of decisions being made by legislative budget writers and keep the pressure on for Medicaid expansion and other fiscal measures benefiting working class residents until the very end of the budget process.

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Citizens applaud Milwaukee County Board approval of resolution supporting Medicare for All

Milwaukee County, WI –  The Milwaukee County Board passed a resolution today in support of the Medicare for All Act of 2019. 

The County Board consideration of the resolution sends a strong message to Wisconsin’s federal legislators that the residents of Milwaukee County are demanding an end to for-profit health care in favor of a universal system without copays or out-of-pocket costs.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, 30 million Americans lacked health insurance, and an additional 57 million had health insurance but were still unable to afford needed health care. The record levels of unemployment in the past year increased those numbers, as millions lost their employer-sponsored health insurance along with their jobs.

Today’s resolution by the county board acknowledged that the pandemic further exposed the dangers of our fragmented, profit-driven health care system, which left far too many people in Wisconsin more vulnerable to diseases like Covid-19.

Ryan Clancy, supervisor for District 4, said, “As both someone who has gone most of the pandemic without health insurance, and as an elected who has seen the disaster that befalls households who are hit with unexpected health emergencies, I was proud to champion this resolution. Medicare for All should be a human right and it is long overdue.” 

Andre Walton, southeast regional organizer for Our Wisconsin Revolution, said, “The passage of this resolution shows the power of organizing and activism. Change doesn’t come from the top down, but from the bottom up. And we will continue to fight for change until Medicare for All is guaranteed to all Americans.” 

Rachael Steidl, DSA regional organizer, said, “I am happy to see our Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors stand together to support the health of all Milwaukee residents.” 

Milwaukee County is part of a growing movement of city and county boards across the United States that are calling for Congress to pass Medicare for All. More than 300 local efforts are under way with more than 55 local resolutions passed in cities and counties as diverse as Los Angeles, Knoxville, Philadelphia, South Bend, New Orleans, and Kalamazoo.

Information about the growing grassroots movement demanding that Congress pass the Medicare for All Act of 2021 can be found at medicare4allresolutions.org.This resolution was passed thanks to the hard work of everyday working class people, who care about the health of the people. Supporting organizations include Our Wisconsin Revolution- Milwaukee, Milwaukee DSA, and Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

Featured image at top: Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., introduced the Medicare for All Act on March 6, 2019, co-sponsored by more than 100 members of Congress. This year Jayapal introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2021 with 115 co-sponsors that do not currently include Rep. Gwen Moore or Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin.

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Tell Gov. Evers to appoint indigenous leaders to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board

This year saw one of the most horrific environmental disasters in Wisconsin history: a wolf slaughter during the height of breeding season, at the behest of an out-of-state hunting group, with the blessing of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board.

It started on February 2 when an Kansas group called Hunter Nation filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County, demanding that Wisconsin immediately hold a wolf hunt. A judge ordered the hunt to proceed, and the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board complied – even though there were just a few days of hunting season left.

The board set a quota of 200 wolves to be killed, out of a population of just over 1,000 — or about 20% — during a time when many female wolves are pregnant.

They then sold 4,000 permits to kill those wolves — meaning 20 people were gunning for each wolf.

Tell Gov. Evers to appoint tribal members to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board

Unlike most states, Wisconsin allows night hunting and trapping of wolves, and is the only state to allow the cruel practice of using dogs to run down prey.

Also unlike other states, Wisconsin allows a hunt to go on for 24 hours after a quota has been reached — practically guaranteeing it will be overshot.

And that’s exactly what happened. In two days, mostly out-of-state hunters slaughtered 218 of Wisconsin’s wolves that we know of — it’s likely more were killed than reported.

Of the 200-wolf quota, 81 were alloted to the Ojibwe tribal groups of Wisconsin. The Ojibwe consider wolves sacred. Only 119 wolves were supposed to actually be killed.

That means hunters slaughtered almost twice their allotment, including all of the wolves belonging to the Ojibwe.

Tell Gov. Evers to appoint indigenous leaders to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board

Tribal groups are supposed to be consulted before any wolf quotas are set. But the lone tribal biologist left the Natural Resources Board meeting to discuss the quota when the board ignored his input.

“It’s so disappointing, the hurried plan to kill ma’iingan,” said John D. Johnson, chairman of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Voigt Intertribal Task Force, which advises the commission on natural resources policy. Ma’iingan is the Ojibwe name for the wolf.

“It’s an extreme disappointment on many levels,” said GLIFWC public information officer Dylan Jennings. “I think it really full-on demonstrated the lack of respect and the lack of commitment to co-management on the state’s part.”

There is a solution to prevent this from happening again: Appoint tribal members to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. By statute the board has seven members, appointed by the governor for six year terms. No current members of the Natural Resources Board are indigenous — but two have terms that end in May.

Tell Gov. Evers to appoint tribal members to those seats. Wisconsin must never again conduct a wolf hunt without the express input of the tribes.

Image credit: Herb Lange / Wisconsin DNR

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Grassroots activists seek $15 minimum wage

Members and supporters of Our Wisconsin Revolution have sent nearly 100 letters to Wisconsin Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson demanding their elected officials support a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

These grassroots activists asked the senators to tell Vice President Kamala Harris to overrule the Senate parliamentarian and keep the $15 minimum wage provision in the American Rescue Plan covid relief bill, as well as to abolish the filibuster, a procedural relic used in the past to block civil rights legislation and now threatening other progressive programs.

“A recent study found that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would lift 32 million workers out of poverty — including 843,000 in Wisconsin,” the letter stated. “Of these Wisconsinites, the majority are women and people of color working on the front lines during a pandemic.”

The American Rescue Plan providing $1.9 trillion in coronavirus relief passed the U.S. House on a mostly party-line vote of 219-212 on February 27. Included in the House version was a provision to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. 

Now the American Rescue Plan is headed to the Senate, where the $15 minimum wage is in jeopardy because the relief package is going through a process called reconciliation, which allows the bill to be passed by a simple majority rather than a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes.

Under Senate rules, only items relevant to the federal budget can be passed through reconciliation. However, an unelected Senate parliamentarian found that the minimum wage increase is not related to the federal budget and shouldn’t be in the covid relief bill.

“We disagree with the parliamentarian’s decision,” the letter stated. “Giving workers a much-needed raise would allow them to get off federal assistance, saving billions of dollars in taxpayer money and letting people spend more at local businesses, revitalizing the economy for everyone. The minimum wage has not been raised since 2007 – this is long overdue.”

The parliamentarian’s decision is not binding. It is an advisory position that can be overruled by Vice President Harris, and has been overruled by vice presidents in the past. Grassroots activists are asking their senators to tell Harris to ignore the parliamentarian and keep the $15 minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan.

A related issue is the filibuster — an arcane procedure that allows any senator to speak for hours or even days to hold up any piece of legislation unless at least 60 other senators vote to close debate. That’s why legislation not passed through reconciliation needs at least 60 votes.

“In a Senate divided 50-50 along party lines, with only a tie-breaking vote from the vice president, that just won’t do,” the letter stated. “We will never be able to pass our progressive agenda that the vast majority of Americans support — Medicare for All, Green New Deal, student loan forgiveness, criminal justice reform, and more — as long as these programs can be filibustered by a single senator.”

Our Wisconsin Revolution’s letter campaign to Sens. Baldwin and Johnson continues through the weekend. 

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The State of Our State

A response to the dueling “State of the State” speeches given by Governor Tony Evers and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Our nation’s politics is on a bullet train to crazy town. The armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that sought to violently overthrow our republic leaves all of us nervously wondering what additional horrors await us in the days to come.

The toxic partisanship, divisiveness, polarization and political dysfunction on display nationally have infected our state politics. In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, no legislative action whatsoever has been taken since April dealing with this public health emergency and providing some relief to those who’ve lost employment, lost health insurance and face losing their homes. The state of our state government is paralyzed. This political paralysis leaves Wisconsin stuck in a rut and more directionless than it has been in a very, very long time.

Wisconsin is not dealing with health insecurity magnified by the pandemic and is not acting decisively to cure what ails our sick health care system. Wisconsin is not addressing glaring and growing economic inequality. Wisconsin is not responding constructively to widespread civil unrest all across the country and right here in our state, and is not coming to terms with the underlying social and racial injustices fueling these disturbances. Wisconsin is not acting boldly in response to the climate crisis.

The governor calling the legislature into special session is not the answer. Obstructionist legislative leaders have shown repeatedly they will gavel in and gavel out without acting. Ruling Republicans will not pass legislation of any importance that the Democratic governor wants. The governor will veto any legislation of importance passed by the legislature. The result is inaction on the biggest problems facing our state. Paralysis.

The one possible path to progress is the state budget process. The budget is the one and only bill that really needs to pass every two years, and a new one is due to be enacted this year. The governor will make his budget request next month and what he proposes will be pronounced dead on arrival in the do-nothing legislature…unless the governor employs a strikingly different strategy than he did two years ago, one that compels legislators to negotiate with him in good faith.

When he campaigned for the office, the governor promised to phase out taxpayer-funded subsidies for private schools. When the voucher system that delivers these subsidies was created some 30 years ago, proponents claimed it would boost student achievement and improve the quality of both public and private schools. The program has failed to deliver these results. When programs work, they should be continued and funded. When they fail, they should be ended. The governor should keep his campaign promise and eliminate funding for this failed program in his budget proposal.

Despite the private school voucher scheme’s failures, Republicans who control the legislature love the program. If the governor proposes eliminating funding for it, they will surely work to restore that funding. The governor, however, could use his veto authority to overturn that legislative action, and Republicans do not have the supermajorities in both houses needed to override that veto. If they want the governor’s approval of some funding for their pet program, they will have to grant him some of his wishes. Maybe this is how Wisconsin can get long overdue Medicaid expansion to insure more people during this pandemic.

While he’s at it, the governor could keep his word to close down the state’s corporate welfare office. The governor also could work at keeping another of his campaign promises to cut the state’s prison population in half and propose more funding for the UW System than for prisons. He could stand with Mr. Republican himself, former Governor Tommy Thompson, and propose turning one of our prisons into a college. Legislative Republicans are heavily invested in corporate welfare and surely will balk at its elimination, but maybe the threat of it is the way they can be prompted to cooperate in acting to remedy the shameful fact that more of Wisconsin’s state budget is spent on prisons than on the entire state university system.

Keep your promises, governor, and provide the kind of leadership and pioneering spirit that Wisconsin once had and that made our state a progressive beacon for the rest of the nation to follow.

Mike McCabe


January 13, 2021

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Dear Governor, Play Hardball With Do-Nothing Legislature

December 9, 2020

In a letter to Governor Tony Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, the independent social justice group Our Wisconsin Revolution urged the Evers administration to eliminate funding for Wisconsin’s private school voucher program in the proposed 2021-23 state budget that will be presented to the legislature early next year as a way to gain leverage in budget negotiations in hopes of overcoming partisan gridlock.

The letter from the group’s co-chairs and executive director follows up on a November 30 message urging the administration to act boldly instead of playing it safe with its budget proposal and recommending six ways to forcefully tackle four emergencies facing Wisconsin—economic inequality, health insecurity, social injustice and environmental insanity.

Any hope the Democratic administration has to broker agreement on the budget across party lines hinges on hard-line bargaining with the legislature’s ruling Republicans that includes a willingness to eliminate funding for programs they favor like private school subsidies, the letter asserts. It goes on to say that when majority Republicans seek to restore funding for the program in the budget bill they pass, the governor needs to make it clear he is prepared to use his partial veto authority to eliminate the funding again, noting that GOP lawmakers do not have the supermajorities needed to override the governor’s vetoes.

“We don’t have to tell you how much legislative Republicans love the voucher program. You have it in your power to dismantle it. In order to save taxpayer-subsidized private schooling, they will have no choice but to support your own budget initiatives. If they refuse to do so, one of their signature programs will go away,” the letter to Evers and Barnes says. “Legislative Republicans have shown little to no interest in working with you and have blocked your actions at every turn. We urge you to play hardball with them.”

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It’s Time to Pass the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act

Our Wisconsin Revolution is partnering with Coulee DSA and Physicians for a National Health Program-Wisconsin to encourage our representatives to support and co-sponsor the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act, H.R. 6906, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

We are living through a historic health care crisis. More than 12 million Americans have been infected with Covid-19 this year, and over 250,000 of them have died. It is well past time for a unifying federal plan to ensure that all Americans have access to the health care that they need during this unprecedented time. We demand that our representatives in Congress pass the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act, S. 3790, H.R. 6906, which guarantees medically necessary care for Covid-19 to all citizens, regardless of insurance coverage, thereby saving lives and preventing a wave of medical bankruptcies.

Can you call your senators and Congressional representative to ask them to support and co-sponsor this bill? See below for an easy to follow call script!

If calling doesn’t work for you, you can quickly and easily use this letter writing tool to send them an e-mail

Here are the representatives and corresponding phone numbers:

Senators
Tammy Baldwin: (608) 264-5338
Ron Johnson: (920) 230-7250

Congress
CD1 Bryan Steil: (608) 752-4050
CD2 Mark Pocan: (608) 258-9800
CD3 Ron Kind: (608) 782-2558
CD4 Gwen Moore: (414) 297-1140
CD5 Jim Sensenbrenner: (262) 784-1111
CD6 Glenn Grothman: (920) 907-0624
CD7 Tom Tiffany: (715) 298-9344
CD8 Mike Gallagher: (920) 301-4500

Not sure who your congressional representative is? Find Your Representative | house.gov

Call Script

“Hello, my name is _____, I live in (City), and I am one of your constituents. I am calling to urge you to support and cosponsor the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act, S. 3790 / H.R. 6906, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

This bill would use Medicare to cover all health care expenses for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis. By using Medicare we could quickly and efficiently expand coverage and streamline payments through a single system to hospitals and health care providers.

This is important to me, because [explain a little here about why this is important to you] …

Talking points

  • Wisconsin is currently experiencing unacceptable numbers of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, which are overwhelming our health care systems.
  • Many Wisconsinites are out of work and have lost their health insurance
  • People who do not have health-care coverage are avoiding seeking medical treatment for Covid-19 due to worry about medical bills, compromising their own health and the health of our communities.
  • I believe that health care is a basic human right that must be extended to all Wisconsinites, regardless of their circumstances.
  • Marginalized Wisconsinites are less likely to have health-care coverage and more likely to experience poor outcomes from Covid-19 and medical emergencies due to disparities in access to care. This includes people of color, poor and working class folks, and people with disabilities, among others.
  • This bill would also benefit those who do have insurance by covering all out-of-pocket costs.
  • This bill would prevent unexpected bills, limit prescription drug prices, and ensure that no one is left without coverage due to private insurers reducing coverage during the Covid-19 emergency.
  • I personally (insert personally relevant story or information such as being without health-care coverage, having a pre-existing condition known to exacerbate Covid-19, etc.)

We cannot afford to wait any longer to ensure that everyone can access the treatment they need to manage this contagious virus. We need a universal system of care during this emergency to help our country get through this crisis. Thank you, I look forward to your response.”

If you’d like to follow up your phone call with an email, use our letter writing tool!

If you’d like to do even more, we encourage you to write a letter to the editor at your local newspaper.

Thank you for taking action to support this bill, and for supporting health care as a basic human right. 

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Match the Budget to the Moment

November 30, 2020

Today the co-chairs and executive director of the independent social justice group Our Wisconsin Revolution called on the Evers administration to address four dire threats to the state’s health and welfare in the proposed 2021-23 state budget that will be presented to the legislature early next year.

In a letter to Governor Tony Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, the group suggests six ideas as centerpieces of a transformational state budget tackling challenges “even bigger than COVID-19,” namely economic inequality, health insecurity, social injustice and environmental insanity that “already have created deep and crippling divisions and if left unaddressed will lead to Wisconsin’s and America’s certain and steady decline.”

While Wisconsin needs to respond to the surging pandemic with more help for the unemployed and eviction prevention funding, for example, the group’s letter stresses that “action is undeniably needed to start reversing the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, cure what ails our sick health care system, arrest climate catastrophe, and come to terms with chronic and systemic injustices in our society.”

Among the six proposals in the Motion W agenda are three policies—Medicaid expansion, increasing the state’s minimum wage and legalizing marijuana—that have gained voter approval this year in ballot initiatives in battleground states and Republican strongholds across the country.

Marijuana legalization would strike a blow for racial justice by ending racially discriminatory criminal prosecution of nonviolent conduct related to the possession and sale of marijuana, halting one cause of mass incarceration. It also would prompt new business start-ups in the form of dispensaries opening throughout the state, stimulate the economy and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to fund health care access, broadband expansion and renewable energy investments.

Another way to fund the economic investments called for in Motion W is to make changes to the state’s tax system that allows the wealthiest in Wisconsin to pay the lowest overall tax rate.

Wisconsin invented taxation based on ability to pay, creating the nation’s first progressive income tax. Requiring the richest to pay their fair share again would help fund health care expansion and make it possible to pay for broadband expansion to close the digital divide that plagues low-income and rural communities. It also makes it possible to invest in the development of renewable energy, a sector of the economy that has been creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy.

“The next state budget should invest in tomorrow’s economy, not prop up yesterday’s economy. Wisconsin’s goal should be solar panels on every roof. And now more than ever, when we’re in the midst of this pandemic, we need to bring high-speed Internet to every doorstep and we need to make sure everyone can get health care. For that to happen, we need a state budget that rises to the occasion,” Our Wisconsin Revolution director Mike McCabe said.