Women under attack in Wisconsin

Today, the world celebrates the achievements and strength of women throughout the world.  But here at home, women in Wisconsin are fighting back sharp attacks to their livelihoods and their rights.

For starters, the Republican majority in the legislature has decided to slash the state budget at the expense of hard-working Wisconsinites.  One group disproportionately impacted is women.

At the forefront of these attacks is a threat to end collective bargaining rights for public employees, 70 percent of whom are female.  Collective bargaining has helped women working as teachers, nurses, and janitors win wages that let them support their families and establish protections for workers and the students, patients and clients they serve.

Home health aides and child care providers, two groups who only recently won the right to bargain, now will find it harder to achieve wages that would help bring their families out of poverty. And as the legislature works to lower the bar for workers’ conditions on the job and standard of living, all working people will suffer.

As if this assault weren’t enough, Republicans have begun sneaking in laws that undermine the ability of local governments to legislate according to the needs of their communities.  Senate Bill 23, for instance, nullifies a Milwaukee law allowing workers to earn paid sick time.  While women and men all over the world have this basic right — to take care of their children and loved ones while they are ill and to recover from being sick themselves without threat of losing income or a job — the men and women of Milwaukee are having this right stripped.  The strong women in Milwaukee, who fought for paid sick days through a ballot measure approved by an overwhelming majority of city voters, are now being told the votes of Milwaukee residents no longer count.

During this time of economic crises, our government should be looking to help hard workers and their families with policies like paid sick time. While Scott Walker talks about honoring families and transitioning people into the workplace, erasing the possibility for paid sick days does the exact opposite.

Consider the story of Denise, my co-worker’s sister. Denise was fired for missing a day of work to recover from the abuse from a violent partner, which included slashes on her arms and bruises on her face.  And there is the story of another woman who was eight months pregnant when she was fired because of a severe asthma attack.  These are every day struggles for women in Milwaukee and throughout the country – struggles that our government can and should be seeking to correct.  In San Francisco, where a paid sick days ordinance has been in effect for several years, workers no longer have to choose between caring for their families when they’re sick and putting food on the table for them.  Most businesses there now support the measure.

The women our families depend on deserve leadership from government to follow these models rather than taking away the right of voters at the local level to pass similar laws in Wisconsin.

During this time of political tension in Wisconsin, women are not fooled. We will not stand by in silence as Scott Walker and his corporate backers try to make life harder for working people who are already struggling.

Wisconsin women, like women everywhere, have a long history as warriors for equality and justice.  And, this International Women’s Day, whether we are acknowledged and respected as we should be, one thing is for certain: we will continue to fight!

You can help. If you live in Wisconsin, contact your assembly representative today 1-800-362-9472. Tell them, ‘Vote NO on AB 12,’ the bill pre-empting local ordinances dealing with paid sick time.’ If you live outside Wisconsin, call Governor Walker and tell him, ‘It’s time to honor families. Stop robbing people of their rights.’

By Albulena Shabani, Working woman in Milwaukee and 9to5 Member

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