Speaking to a room full of machinists gathered in a downtown Madison hotel ballroom on Monday, Democratic congressional candidate Randy Bryce, a union iron worker, detailed an economic platform that includes raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security and implementing single-payer health care.
Bryce, along with teacher Cathy Myers, is one of two Democrats seeking to unseat House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District. His speech on Monday came after a rally Saturday in Racine with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The two share similar priorities. Democrats in Congress, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin, have embraced Sanders' "Medicare for All" proposal, modeled after Canada's health care system. Cost estimates for the Sanders plan range from $16 trillion to $32 trillion over 10 years, but Bryce said Monday the system would lower costs for families by giving the government more negotiating power with health insurance companies.
Bryce also backs Sanders' proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which would be covered by direct federal spending, as opposed to President Donald Trump's plan, which relies on public-private partnerships and federal tax credits.
Bryce's policy prescriptions focused heavily on workers: passing legislation to allow home care workers to unionize, boosting staff levels for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, increasing penalties for businesses that violate wage and hour laws and requiring businesses to give two weeks' notice of when employees will be scheduled to work.
Like Baldwin has done, Bryce argued that the middle-class tax cuts available under the recently passed Republican tax overhaul should be made permanent.
Bryce also supports legislation that would give nearly all workers 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave, and said he would campaign to raise the cap on Social Security taxes to expand the program.
Bryce was in friendly territory, among a crowd that booed at mentions of Ryan and of Gov. Scott Walker's Act 10 legislation, which effectively eliminated most public employees' ability to collectively bargain.
Other priorities Bryce named included renegotiating NAFTA, implementing a tax on Wall Street transactions and offering incentives to businesses that hire veterans.
"We have to fight to protect our way of life, because if we don’t, then guys like Paul Ryan who haven’t built a damn thing in their entire lives, will take it from us," Bryce said.
A Ryan campaign spokesman declined comment.
Bryce, who lives in Caledonia, will face Myers, of Janesville, in the Aug. 14 primary election.