What does the future hold for Milwaukee’s workers?

February 26, 2014

By Mary Burke


Milwaukee has always been a city defined by its work ethic. It is a city full of hard-working men and women who are willing to roll up their sleeves, put in an honest day’s work, and are proud to support their families. I still hold fond memories of the small business my father ran on Virginia Street, and I have countless childhood memories of all that Milwaukee has to offer.
I know that Milwaukee still holds an enormous amount of value to the rest of the state. And the success or failure of our largest city will play a central role in determining how we move forward as a state. Top-notch universities are located here, and the city has great potential to be a hub for cutting edge industry.
Unfortunately, Governor Walker has ignored Milwaukee’s potential. Instead of valuing the potential that Milwaukee has to drive our state’s economy, the Governor has undermined the city at virtually every turn.
Governor Walker has failed to create the 250,000 jobs he promised – right now we rank 37th in job creation, 45th in job prospects, and 48th in new business starts. In his first budget, Walker cut $800 million from education. He’s turned away an opportunity to bring our own tax dollars back to the state to expand Badgercare, which resulted in 72,000 people losing their health care. He raided millions that should have gone to addressing the housing foreclosure crisis to patch a budget hole. And he remains committed to passing a restrictive voter ID law that makes it harder to vote.
The result is hard to miss: Blighted neighborhoods ravaged by the foreclosure crisis. Thousands of people willing to work but unable to find jobs or the transportation to get to them. Failing schools that aren’t doing enough to prepare kids for a job or college. And too much senseless violence threatening our neighborhoods.
Addressing these challenges won’t be easy, but that doesn’t make them any less important. My pledge to you is to make Milwaukee a real priority, roll up my sleeves, and get to work alongside you to move the city – and our state – forward.
We do our best work when we work together. Throughout my career I’ve taken that approach: when opening up new markets for Trek Bicyle to sell great Wisconsin products around the world; as Commerce Secretary charged with helping new businesses start up and existing businesses grow; and in working to close the achievement gap in Madison and give more kids the chance to go to college.
At Trek, my approach helped grow our European sales from $3 million to over $50 million annually, creating good jobs right here in Wisconsin. While I was Commerce Secretary, Wisconsin had 84,000 more jobs than we had based on the latest data and our unemployment rate was just 4.8 percent. And I’m proud to say that the program I founded in Madison to give more young people the opportunity to continue their education after high school is succeeding – over 90 percent of the students in our first graduating class have gone on to college or tech school – many of them the first in their family to do so.
Each of those endeavors succeeded because we worked together. It wasn’t about who got the credit; it was about bringing more voices into the conversation. Wisconsin needs a governor who will bring that approach back to how we do business in this state. We need a governor who understands that this state’s diversity is what makes us great and propels us into a future of opportunity and progress.
Throughout this campaign, and during my term as Governor, I’ll remain focused on Milwaukee and work with community leaders to realize the vision of a thriving Milwaukee that benefits everyone. But there are a few common sense places we can start.
First, we need to make job creation our top priority by investing in our strengths and helping more new businesses – which create the majority of new jobs – get their start. We also need to improve our public schools and make sure students are graduating job- or college-ready.
It’s long past time we invested in 21st century transit that connects workers with jobs. And we need to make better choices as a state when it comes to health care – ensuring access to quality, affordable care is more than a moral right, it’s an economic imperative. We also need to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.
I’m running for Governor to do just that. And to succeed where Scott Walker has failed our communities. To bring people together to address the issues that matter most to the people of Wisconsin. That can’t happen unless we value every community, in every corner of the state. And it’s the only way we’ll realize a future of greater opportunity for all.