Jaws dropped and hearts fell as we learned of Oscar Mayer’s plan to close its Madison plant and lay off 1,000 workers.
It was jarring news, but we really shouldn’t have been surprised. Massive job losses are now the norm in Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin.
In October, Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson announced it would cut 250 salaried positions. In September, General Electric shared a plan to cut 350 jobs in Waukesha. In August, Johnson Controls announced it would cut 197 jobs in West Allis.
And, it’s not just the big companies bleeding.
HyPro of Whitewater is laying off 62 employees. The Daniels Sentry grocery store is closing too, and 53 people will lose their jobs. In Janesville, Data Dimensions laid off 120 workers and Grainger laid off 20.
By year-end, Wisconsin will have lost more than 10,000 jobs in mass layoffs alone.
It’s a deeply troubling statistic. So, too, is Wisconsin’s job growth rate of just 1.7 percent, well behind the national average.
But what keeps me up at night is the reality of the numbers.
I think about the 10,000 people who have had a long ride home, pink slip in hand. I think about those folks who weren’t quite sure how to tell their spouse or kids. I think about them worrying over mortgage payments and medical bills, and their future.
Each and every one of those people deserves better.
They deserve a governor who spends more time fighting to save a company than he does pointing fingers to deflect blame.
They deserve an economic development agency that’s directing tax dollars to companies based on their potential job retention and creation, not on their contributions to Republican campaigns.
They deserve lawmakers working overtime in extraordinary session, not to decimate the Government Accountability Board and allow for unlimited corporate influence in elections, but lift up hardworking Wisconsinites and create economic opportunity for all.
Democrats are ready to deliver. We’ve been ready to deliver.
At the start of the year, we introduced “15 Bills for ‘15” — legislation designed to strengthen and grow Wisconsin’s middle class. The list includes common-sense proposals to invest in small businesses, restore tax credits for low-income working families, use the state’s buying power to build up Wisconsin manufacturers, and train workers for rapidly-growing career fields.
Not one of these bills has even been scheduled for a public hearing. Time and again, Republicans have refused to debate them on the Assembly floor.
We need Republicans in power to set aside their politics and ambitions now — or we need new leaders.
We simply cannot afford to keep weathering the staggering job losses that have become so routine over this past year with no substantive work done to stem losses and create new opportunities.
There have been times in the past that Republicans and Democrats have recognized an urgent need to take action, and they’ve done good work together.
Folks, this is one of those times. We need to take action and work together now. That’s what Wisconsin deserves.