Celebrating Milwaukee workers this Labor Day

August 31, 2018

By U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin

In Milwaukee—a city built by workers—Labor Day means something special to all of us. This is a city known for our workers, and the labor movement developed here has changed the face of our country.

From the tanneries, foundries, factories and breweries manned by generations of the greatest workers America has ever known, we have much to reflect on, be thankful for and celebrate this Labor Day.

Wisconsin’s first unions were founded right here in Milwaukee, back in the 1800’s. Those workers took collective action and secured basic workplace advancements that became the bedrock of America’s working class.

Fair pay for a hard day’s work. Unemployment insurance for laid-off laborers. Workers’ compensation for people injured on the job. These vital reforms created shared prosperity and led to the birth of the middle class, and we have the Milwaukee labor movement to thank.

As we spend Labor Day commemorating the actions of Milwaukee workers who led the way, we must also recommit to standing shoulder- to-shoulder with our union brothers and sisters of today.

Right now, Washington is a mess. In all this noise and chaos, Wisconsin workers get left behind and feel the pain.

Yet, Washington does seem to be working pretty darn well for a few powerful special interests.

That’s not right, and we can’t just sit on the defensive, waiting for the next attack on workers’ rights to come.

It’s time to go back on the offense and fight for common sense reforms that will strengthen Wisconsin workers and revitalize Milwaukee manufacturing.

We need to make sure the words “Made In Wisconsin” are emblazoned on products for years to come. The best way to accomplish that goal is with strong Buy American laws.

I’ve introduced multiple Buy American bills in the U.S. Senate on behalf of Wisconsin workers, including one that will rebuild our water infrastructure with American- made iron and steel.

Rebuilding our drinking water systems with Wisconsin iron will not only replace lead laterals that threaten too many Wisconsin neighborhoods, it would boost Wisconsin manufacturing and the latest innovative water technology being developed in Milwaukee.

If we’re going to invest in these advanced Milwaukee manufacturing jobs, we must ensure that the next generation of Milwaukee workers have the skills they need to succeed.

Too many Milwaukee workers are unable to find a pathway to better- paying, family-supporting jobs.

So, over the past few years, I’ve met with Wisconsin businesses, technical colleges and workforce development organizations, like WRTP-Big Step in Milwaukee, to talk about our skills gap — and how we can close it for good.

They’ve shown that apprenticeships and work-based job training programs are a proven way to provide workers with the skills they need to land good-paying jobs.

But many Wisconsin businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses here in Milwaukee, often don’t have the resources to establish apprenticeship programs on their own.

I got to work and introduced The PARTNERS Act, bold legislation that would scale up Wisconsin’s apprenticeship programs.

My apprenticeship bill would invest in public-private partnerships between schools and local businesses that are training future Wisconsin workers.

Now, I’m pressing on Washington to pass this bill immediately. Milwaukee working families don’t have any more time to wait and it’s time to make progress.

I know these advancements for Milwaukee workers are possible because we’ve seen it happen here before.

When Milwaukee shoemakers formed a union 1867, they didn’t think it would become the largest union in the nation some day.

When Milwaukee bricklayers formed Wisconsin’s first union twenty years before that, that didn’t know if they would secure safer workplaces or not.

But these Milwaukee workers never gave up.

We need to take those lessons from yesterday to heart today, because we’re still facing countless challenges.

Powerful special interests know that I’ll stand up to them and do whatever it takes for Wisconsin workers. And they know that my opponent, State Senator Leah Vukmir, has bragged about leading the assault on workers’ rights in Wisconsin.

That’s why big money outside groups backed by billionaires have have spent over $11 million to beat me.

They know that I’ll keep fighting for workers and make sure that Washington starts working for Wisconsin — not powerful special interests.

Milwaukee’s legendary industrial past and bright innovative future are the product of great Wisconsin workers — and the indomitable labor movement led by them.

Let’s remember the workers of yesterday and stand with the workers of today, from union workers at Master Lock and MillerCoors here in Milwaukee to Neenah Foundry, Marinette Marine and in every work place across the state.

This Labor Day, I hope you’ll join me in recommitting to standing up for Wisconsin workers and fighting to do right by them.

Join me and Wisconsin workers across the state at tammybaldwin.com/take-action.

Together, we can work to overcome special interests’ grip on Washington and win for Wisconsin workers.

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