Last night the North Shore Labor Council held their 14th Annual Legislative Dinner. Several awards were given out. The main speaker at the dinner was Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach who was thrust into the national spotlight after he and 13 other Democratic State Senators fled the state, denying the Republicans a quorum for a bill designed to strip unions of their right to collectively bargain.
Senator Erpenbach was born to two public employees and went to public school. He represents Wisconsin 27th state district which includes Green Rock, Lafayette and Dane counties. Governor Walker announced his plan for “minor modification” to the state union’s ability to collective bargaining at the end of the week. Also included in the bill was a provision which would have allowed Governor Walker to determine who in the state received Senior Care and who didn’t. The bill was introduced at the end of the week, as many unpopular bills are. It was a weekend in which Ohio State, who was then number one in the country at the time, was playing Wisconsin. The Republicans were surprised when 1000 protesters decided to head to Madison. The Democrats had planned to fight the bill by bringing up lots of amendments to drag out the proceedings. The Republicans decided to first limit the time the Democratic senators could speak on the bill and then to cut off debate altogether, a tactic which is almost never employed.
Erpenbach remembered after his fellow senators had decided to leave the state seeing “one protester who had this look on his face of ‘where are you going?’ I wanted to say, ‘we’re going to hit them with everything’ but I couldn’t.”
The Senators really had no idea how the situation would resolve itself. Erpenbach said, “All’s I knew is the longer we stood away the more likely it was that people would take the time to read the legislation and realize that that’s my mom they’re talking about or hey, that’s my grandma…”
The whole time they were in Chicago Erpenbach was constantly on television saying. “We’re staying here until we have an agreement.”
During that time he was on the Rachel Maddow show, Colbert Report, and he even managed to grant an interview to Fox News because as Erpenbach said “someone had to.”
Erpenbach described every interview he did on Fox as Fox opening the interview with, “’Why aren’t you doing your job?’
“And I’d respond back, ‘I am doing it. Only I can’t do it in Wisconsin.’
“ They’d say, ‘No you’re not.’”
And every interview went like that. Erpencbach said, “I could have stayed home and had the same conversation with my kids.”
Right now, in Wisconsin, private schools and private prisons are hiring lobbyists to get their bills through the state government as they race to take over more and more of the public domain. According to the Wisconsin Senator, “Corporations see money in the states that they can’t get at because of strong unions. Therefore they have to cut funding and weaken unions to get at the money.”
Erpenbach believes that the key to stopping this push is having the country adopt a single payer universal health care plan. He says that when people question government workers about “’Why should you get a Cadillac health care plan?’ The question to ask back is, ‘Why don’t you have one?’”
The senator says the question he likes to ask opponents of the single payer health care plan is, “If government run health care is so bad, why do you take it? One representative even complained that he had to take government health care because health care is too expensive which was my point all along. Every representative takes the government plan that they deny for their constituents.”
According to the Wisconsin Senator he said, “This is no doubt a war on the middle class in Wisconsin but it’s spreading to Massachusetts (as stories of pension reform had just come out earlier in the week) from what I understand. The economic engine is a strong when there is a vital middle class, with people spending money. People have a responsibility to turn off Fox and to read the legislation. This is a message we have to carry county by county, city by city, town by town, house by house, and door by door.”
Bridgwell Workers Cantave Pamphile and Kenny Odom accept award
Award Was Given Out By Lynn Councilman Pete Capano