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                      What we need to do to defeat Scott Walker

Dear AFT-Wisconsin members,

 

With just two weeks left until the election, there isn’t much time left for us to get the word out about the importance of voting on November 4th.  That’s why I’m travelling across Wisconsin to knock on doors and make phone calls with my fellow union members through the Wisconsin AFL-CIO’s Workers’ Voice program, and that’s why I’m writing to ask you to do the same.  The experts are saying that this election is in the hands of what are called “dropoff voters” – voters who vote in presidential elections but often sit out other elections.  If we’re going to win in November, we’re going to have to reach these voters – and despite all of the TV ads and mailers, it’s one-on-one contact that has been shown to be the most effective way to encourage people to vote.  Workers’ Voice has 16 locations around the state where you can drop in for two or three hours any day between now and November 4th to knock on a few doors or make a few phone calls – click here for the complete Workers’ Voice schedule and location list.

 

And if you live near Madison, Milwaukee, Eau Claire, or Menasha, please mark your calendars for a special AFT-Wisconsin sponsored Day of Action to get out the vote.  In each of these cities, I’ll be coming in later this week to make phone calls or knock on doors with my fellow AFT-Wisconsin members.  We’ll have food and drinks, and it’ll definitely be a fun way to let folks know about the election and meet other union members from your area.  You don’t have to RSVP to come, but it’s appreciated – please email Aaron Bibb, our Communications Director, at bibb@aft-wisconsin.org to let us know if you can join us!  Here are the details for these four fun events:

 

Madison phone banking: Wednesday, Oct. 22, 5:00 - 8:00 p.m. at the South Central Federation of Labor (1602 Park St.)

Milwaukee phone banking: Thursday, Oct. 23, 5:00 - 8:00 p.m. at the Wisconsin AFL-CIO (6333 West Blue Mound Rd.)

Eau Claire canvassing: Saturday, Oct. 25, 10:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. at the Eau Claire Labor Temple (2233 Birch St.)

Menasha canvassing: Sunday, Oct. 26, 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. at the Menasha Steelworkers Hall (1244A Midway Rd.)

 

Hope to see you out on the doors or on the phones!  Let’s get this done!

 

In solidarity,

 

Kim Kohlhaas

President, AFT-Wisconsin

President@aft-wisconsin.org

facebook.com/AFTWisconsin

@KimKohlhaas

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Voter ID on hold:

We can win in November with your help!

Dear AFT-Wisconsin members,

 

I’m glad to be writing with some good news from our court system for a change: last night, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that puts voter ID on hold while further litigation is pending.  Time and time again, it has been shown that voter ID legislation does nothing to prevent voter fraud (which is so rare as to be virtually nonexistent), but suppresses the ability of eligible low-income, student, and minority voters to exercise their right to vote.  I’d like to thank our allies in the American Civil Liberties Union for their outstanding efforts in this case, as well as other organizations like the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera that have also been fighting Walker’s voter suppression scheme.  While the ultimate fate of Scott Walker’s voter suppression legislation is unknown, this ruling means that voter ID will not be in place for the November 4th election. 

 

But while last night’s ruling is a welcome piece of good news, it doesn’t mean we get to sit back and relax until November 4th.  This election is too close – and too important – to sit out.  We have a candidate in Mary Burke who is poised to defeat Scott Walker and stand up for workers’ rights, strong public services, and high-quality public education, but she needs our help if she’s going to win.  Moreover, we have a slate of strong, passionate progressive champions ready to make key gains in both houses of the state legislature. 

 

If you’re ready to take back Wisconsin, can you pitch in a few hours between now and the election to get it done?  Just sign the pledge!

 

Every expert watching this election is saying one thing: that the election will be won by the side that works the hardest to turn out their voters.  Between now and November 4th, I’m going to be travelling the state to volunteer with fellow union members as we make phone calls and knock on doors to get the word out about this election.  But I need your help!  Will you sign the pledge to vote on November 4th and do what it takes to stop Scott Walker?

 

And remember: if you still need to register to vote, you can do so in three ways, with a valid Proof of Residence document:

1.       Register by mail or with a Special Registration Deputy up to 20 days before the election

2.       Register in person at your municipal clerk’s office up to 5:00 or close of business on Friday,     Oct. 31

3.       Register at the polls on November 4th

 

Please visit the Government Accountability Board for more information on registering to vote.

 

In solidarity,

 

Kim Kohlhaas

President, AFT-Wisconsin

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Local 212 members rally to fight student loan debt

You’ve probably heard about the student loan debt crisis in America.  As politicians have cut state funding for our public colleges and universities over the years, tuition has gone up—way up—and students have been left with the bill.  Making matters worse, the economic recovery in Wisconsin has been abysmal thanks to Scott Walker’s failed policies, and the good-paying jobs that would help Wisconsinites repay their student loans just aren’t there.  As a result, the average debt per student in Wisconsin is nearly $25,000, while Wisconsin is at the bottom of the Midwest in job creation.

 

That’s why I’m glad to share these great photos from a recent event sponsored by AFT Local 212 at Milwaukee Area Technical College with you.  Members of Local 212 wanted to raise awareness about the trillion-dollar student loan debt industry and share some ideas about what we can do about it.  For this event, held on September 8,Local 212 members teamed up with One Wisconsin Now to bring film director Andrew Rossi to campus to screen his new documentary, Ivory Tower, which takes a critical look at the business model that is overtaking American higher education and the trillion dollars of student loan debt that has come along with it.  As Local 212 member Brandy Ferrara, an instructor at MATC, put it, “I'm here today to stand in support of student loan relief. I myself have student loans. I teach because I want to educate my students, and I don’t want them coming out into the workforce in the same situation I am. Many of our students at MATC may be the first in their families to seek an education beyond high school, and they get disheartened because they look at their student loan debt and think to themselves ‘Why is it even worth it to go to school?’”

 

You can check out the rally photos, taken by Local 212 member Sue Ruggles, here:

https://www.facebook.com/susan.ruggles.75/media_set?set=a.10204704146747322&type=1

 

Local 212 members worked hard to reach out to students at MATC for this event, since they’re the ones who will be stuck with the bill for this crisis.  David James, an MATC student who attended the event, pointed to the uncertain economy when asked why he was attending the rally: “I’m here to let politicians know the plight students feel right now. We’re the future and right now there is very limited accessibility to an education and a lack of good-paying jobs once you graduate.”

 

I’m proud of our members at Local 212 for their work to educate their community on this crucial action.  Are you interested in helping organize events like this, on student loan debt or other issues, in your community?  Click here to sign up if you’d like to stand up with your fellow union members to advocate for high-quality public education and public services in Wisconsin.

 

In solidarity,

 

Kim Kohlhaas

President, AFT-Wisconsin

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Voter ID Information

We are currently putting together more information for members on the implementation of Voter ID this election cycle. In the meantime, please visit the GAB (link - http://gab.wi.gov/elections-voting/photo-id) for more information.

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Fighting back against Scott Walker's voter supression!

Dear AFT-Wisconsin members,

 

Late on Friday afternoon, a panel of conservative justices on the United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals removed the injunction against Scott Walker's voter ID legislation.  This means that the rules for who can and can't vote are changing dramatically in Wisconsin with the November election just around the corner.  Voter ID laws like the one in Wisconsin are part of a national Republican strategy to restrict voting turnout among eligible student, minority, and low-income voters, and with less than eight weeks until the election, it's going to take a lot of effort from all of us to fight back against this scheme and help every voter get to the polls. 

 

Will you sign the pledge to vote in November and pitch in a few hours to help protect the right to vote in Wisconsin?

 

The truth is that voter ID laws have been shown to prevent far more eligible voters from casting their ballots than they do fraudulent voters.  Voter fraud occurs extremely rarely because the penalties for it are so steep—and rightfully so.  And the kind of voter fraud that does occur on rare occasions is almost always the kind of fraud that wouldn't be prevented by voter ID laws.  In fact, Judge Lynn Adelman, who overturned Wisconsin's voter ID law back in April, wrote in his decision that voter ID proponents “could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.”  But what voter ID does do is reduce voter turnout—not by preventing ineligible voters from voting, but by preventing otherwise eligible voters from casting their ballots.  This is the purpose of voter ID laws like Scott Walker's, and frankly, I find it disgusting that he and other Republicans in Wisconsin are trying to steal this election by preventing Wisconsinites from exercising their democratic rights.

 

We don’t yet know exactly how this is going to be implemented for November’s election.  The Government Accountability Board is expected to provide some guidelines this week, and AFT-Wisconsin will be providing as much information as we can to you and other members to make sure you have the information you need to vote.  However, if we’re going to be successful in fighting back against this scheme, it’s going to take all of us working together to educate Wisconsin voters and ensure that they can vote successfully.  As I said above, we only have a few short weeks between now and November's election.  Scott Walker might think that he can win this election by making it harder for Wisconsinites to vote against him, but I'm going to work as hard as I can between now and November 4th to make sure that every Wisconsinite gets their chance to cast their ballot. 

 

I hope that you'll join me and hundreds of other AFT-Wisconsin members in educating Wisconsin voters and helping them get to the polls in November.  Will you take the pledge?

 

In solidarity,

 

Kim Kohlhaas

President, AFT-Wisconsin

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AFT-Wisconsin Job Opening

AFT-Wisconsin is beginning a search to fill the position of Organizing Director.  If you are interested in working with public sector union members to organize for a stronger voice in the workplace and high-quality public services and public education, click here for the job posting and application information.

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Legal Update from AFT-Wisconsin

Dear AFT-Wisconsin members,

This morning, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its ruling in Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker, in which the Court’s conservative majority overturned Judge Juan Colas’s 2012 decision that found most of Act 10 unconstitutional for municipal employees.  The decision did not affect our state employee and UW System unions, which have been operating under Act 10 since 2011.  As expected, a majority of the Court upheld the law, which is no surprise—the conservative ideologues that make up the Court’s majority have reliably sided with Scott Walker and big-money special interests in nearly every major case over the past few years. This decision is aptly summarized by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, joined by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, in her dissent, which states that "the majority's failure to address the actual issues presented in this case allows it to reach results that countenance the needless diminution of multiple constitutional rights." While I (and our legal counsel) strongly disagree with the Court’s opinion, today’s decision closes the books on the major legal challenges to Act 10.  (You can read AFT-Wisconsin’s press release on today’s decision below.)

 

But since the passage of Act 10, AFT-Wisconsin members have rediscovered the fact that we don’t have to depend on the law to claim our voice in the workplace and in our state.  In the last few years, I’ve been inspired by the energy and activism of AFT-Wisconsin members as we advocate for quality education and services, fight for fair treatment in our workplaces, and organize for social justice in our communities.  No legislation can take that power away from us.

 

Today’s decision underscores, however, the crucial need for change in Wisconsin this November.  We have an excellent chance to defeat Scott Walker and elect champions to the state legislature that will fight for working Wisconsinites.  Will you sign the pledge to vote and take action this fall?  And the Wisconsin AFL-CIO will be kicking off its voter contact and voter education program this Saturday—visit our website to find out about volunteer opportunities in your area

 

Today’s decision is an unfortunate one, to be sure.  But it won’t lessen our resolve or diminish our strength if we remain united.

 

In solidarity,

 

Kim Kohlhaas

President, AFT-Wisconsin

President@aft-wisconsin.org

 

AFT-WISCONSIN PRESIDENT KIM KOHLHAAS ON MTI V. WALKER: DECISION “UNFORTUNATE, BUT EXPECTED”

 

Madison, WI: Responding to today’s Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Madison Teachers, Inc. et al v. Walker et al, AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas, a teacher in the Superior School District, expressed regret in the Court’s decision, but was confident that the members of AFT-Wisconsin and other public sector unions would continue to advocate in their workplaces and in their communities. “Today’s decision in MTI v. Walker was unfortunate, but expected,” said Kohlhaas.  “The sad fact is that the same wealthy donors and corrupt CEOs that support Scott Walker were the major funders of the Court’s conservative majority, so we are disappointed—but not surprised—that these justices voted to support Walker’s anti-union, anti-worker legislation. As stated by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in her dissent, which was joined by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, this decision results in 'the needless diminution of multiple constitutional rights' for Wisconsin workers."

 

According to Kohlhaas, today’s decision, in which the Court overturned a judge’s 2012 decision that struck down major portions of Scott Walker’s anti-union legislation, won’t diminish the resolve of public sector union members. “Today’s decision doesn’t change much for our members, who are amazing advocates for workers’ voices in their workplaces, strong public services, and high-quality public education. They know that no law or court decision can take away their ability to work together to improve their workplaces, their communities, and their state. Scott Walker, aided by his conservative allies in the Court, may have taken away one of our tools in collective bargaining. But our members know that you can always use other tools to get the job done, and that’s exactly what they’re doing, through meaningful discussions with management, solidarity in their workplaces, and activism in their communities.”

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AFT-WISCONSIN LEADERS URGE LEGISLATORS TO PROTECT WTCS LOCAL CONTROL

 

Madison, WI: As legislators and other committee members met on Thursday, July 24, to discuss drastic centralization of power in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), members of AFT-Wisconsin called on the committee to keep WTCS decision-making power in Wisconsin’s communities.  AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas, a teacher in the Superior School District, urged the committee to protect a system that gives each technical college the ability to respond to local needs and provide high-quality practical education. “The structure of the WTCS gives our technical colleges the ability to meet with employers in their communities and provide classes and programs that meet their needs. Employment needs in a community change rapidly, and decisions about how to operate a WTCS college need to be made by people with strong ties to that community. If that power is taken away from our communities, our technical colleges will lose their ability to quickly adapt to local employment and educational needs.”

 

Michael Gradinjan, an electrical instructor at Moraine Park Technical College who is also the president of his local union and the AFT-Wisconsin WTCS Council Vice-President, said that the proposed centralization would take control of Wisconsin’s technical colleges away from the people who are best equipped to make decisions.  “Taking decision-making power out of the hands of our local technical college boards and putting it into the hands of political appointees in Madison with no connection to our communities would be a disaster. The Wisconsin Technical College System is successful because each college is given the ability to make decisions about what is best for our students and our communities. How could it be a good idea to take that power away from people who live and work in the area and give it to people who may never set foot on my campus?”

 

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AFT-WISCONSIN ENDORSES MARY BURKE FOR WISCONSIN GOVERNOR

Union Members Support Burke’s Policies on Healthcare Access, Women’s Rights, Public Education, and Workers’ Rights

AFT-Wisconsin has endorsed Mary Burke for Wisconsin governor in the November 2014 general election, following a democratic process in which union members from across the state expressed enthusiastic support for her candidacy. “Wisconsin has had three years of Scott Walker’s broken promises, corrupt politics, and attacks on working families,” said AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas, a teacher in the Superior School District. “He has made it clear that he cares more about his wealthy donors and his presidential ambitions than about creating jobs in Wisconsin. Our members know that Mary Burke will fight for all working families in Wisconsin as governor, with policies that will promote job growth, higher wages, and workers’ rights.”

Luz Sosa, a part-time economics instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College and co-chair of the AFT-Wisconsin Committee on Political Education, stressed Burke’s policy stances as major factors in AFT-Wisconsin’s endorsement. “Mary Burke is a champion for common-sense policies that will provide opportunity for all Wisconsinites,” said Sosa. “The recent Supreme Court decision limiting women’s access to contraception highlights the need for a governor who understands that a woman’s healthcare choices should be between her and her doctor. And with Mary Burke’s support for a higher minimum wage, marriage equality, public education, and affordable healthcare, the choice is clear for all of us this November. Scott Walker wants to take us backward, but Mary Burke will help our state move forward.”

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AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas on Harris v. Quinn

Dear AFT-Wisconsin members,

 

Like many of you, I have been anxiously awaiting the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn, a case which threatened to eliminate fundamental workers’ rights across the entire public sector. In this case, an extreme right-wing anti-union organization, the Right to Work Legal Foundation, used a dispute over a recently formed union for home health care workers in Illinois to attempt to outlaw fair share fees and even the right to exclusive union representation in the entire public sector of the United States. While the Court’s conservative majority sided with right-wing special interests in their decision, dealing a substantial blow to our sister and brother home health care workers in Illinois and elsewhere, the decision did not, as feared, impact the right to exclusive union representation in the public sector or the ability to require all public employees to pay their fair share of the cost of their representation. This, at least, is something to be grateful for.

 

(To ensure that we can remain in touch, and to build our local union strength, please take this brief survey to update your contact information and indicate how you’d like to get involved at the local level with your union. Thanks! https://leadernet.aft.org/webform/aft-wisconsin-workplace-action-signup-form)

 

As you know, of course, we have already experienced these attacks—and more—here in Wisconsin, where we’re familiar with conservative politicians and judges trying to silence our voice through anti-union laws and legal decisions. But thanks to the strength and resiliency of our local union leaders and activists, we’re still here, three years after the passage of Act 10. We’re a different union, but in many ways, we’re stronger than we were before, because we’ve been forced to fight for what we used to take for granted. So my message to our public sector union brothers and sisters around the country is this: Don’t let your union be defined by court cases, pieces of legislation, or even contracts. We’ve learned this the hard way in Wisconsin, but we know now that our power comes—and has always come—from shared passion and commitment to workers’ rights, robust public services, and high-quality public education. This power can never be taken from us if we remain organized and vigilant.

 

Whether or not we enjoy comprehensive collective bargaining rights, fair share provisions, or a strong grievance and arbitration process, the moment we let such things define our unions is the moment that we allow our power to be taken from us, because all of these things can be removed by a single court decision or piece of legislation. Moreover, we know that Harris v. Quinn won’t be the last attempt to do so—many more court cases, and many more anti-union laws, are sure to follow. Therefore, I encourage all of my sisters and brothers in the public sector to organize as if the Supreme Court’s conservative majority had taken the extreme steps that we all feared. An organized workplace is one in which union members have a real voice, regardless of whether it is through collective bargaining or other means. And an organized union is one which people will want to join, regardless of whether fair share contributions are required or not.

 

Our hearts are with Illinois’ home health care workers, who have suffered a substantial loss this week in Washington, D.C. But all of us, in Wisconsin and across the country, should take this decision as a reminder of the fundamental importance of organizing in our own workplaces. No court or politician can ever take that power away from us.

 

To help AFT-Wisconsin keep in touch, will you take a moment to fill out this very brief survey to update your contact information and indicate how you’d like to get involved in your local union’s organizing efforts? Thanks! (https://leadernet.aft.org/webform/aft-wisconsin-workplace-action-signup-form)

 

In solidarity,

 

Kim Kohlhaas

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Mary Burke comes to speak with AFT-Wisconsin members and executive board about her strategy for restoring Wisconsin values and the middle class.

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Scott Walker's Criminal Schemes

We are going to have a very close race for Governor this November.

 

I don’t need to remind you of Scott Walker and his attacks on our rights. Or the extensive time he has spent outside our state and his presidential ambitions.

 

But things are not looking too good for the Governor these days.  It is even in the polls for his re-election. The nationally syndicated, right-leaning Cook Report has the WI Governor race now ranked as a toss-up. In the Midwestern states, Wisconsin is ranked last (10th out of 10 states) in job creation since he took office. 

 

And yesterday, you might have heard of Scott Walker and his “criminal schemes”.

 

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/john-doe-prosecutors-allege-scott-walker-at-center-of-criminal-scheme-263839791.html

 

We need your help these next few months to help turn our state around. 

 

AFT Wisconsin needs you to get involved - not just to elect a new governor, but to continue to be a voice for public service and to be involved in your communities well past November. Please contact me at president@aft-wisconsin.org if you would like to join us in this important effort or if you would like more information on our political efforts in 2014.

 

 

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Important News on Merger

Dear Colleagues,

I’m writing to let you know about an important development in the proposed merger of AFT-Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC). As you know, a vote on merger was originally scheduled to take place in April at both the WEAC and AFT-W conventions. Last Saturday, WEAC’s Board of Directors voted to postpone a full merger vote.

One key reason the WEAC Board cited for this difficult decision was member concerns regarding the different dues structures of AFT-W and WEAC.  Under the original plan for a possible merger, this issue would have been resolved over a two-year trial period once both unions had approved merger. Instead, a special committee will now be put in place with representatives from both organizations. The committee’s job will be addressing how to harmonize our two unions’ different systems into one fair, effective dues structure that ensures all members get the staff and services  they need. AFT-W will take full part in this committee, which is slated to make its recommendations by the end of 2014. Based on this new timetable, a merger vote then could take place in early 2015.

I want to assure you that AFT-W’s leadership remains committed to this merger process. Everywhere AFT and NEA unions have merged, from Florida to Minnesota, they’ve formed an even stronger union. We need that in Wisconsin right now—for ourselves and for the people we serve.  We hold the line for them on quality and access in education and public services. We must speak with one voice.

Many of you have put a lot of time and effort toward a merger vote this April, and I thank you for your commitment. While I had hoped to see the vote this April, I’m not discouraged. We’re looking at a change in the timetable—not in our ultimate goal. WEAC and AFT-Wisconsin are both still dedicated to that goal.

 We will be having an AFTW tele-town hall on Tuesday, March 4, at 7:00.  It is important AFTW members have an opportunity to hear from me about the postponement and the plans for AFTW.  In addition, members will be able to address their concerns and have your questions answered.  Members will receive a robo call on Tuesday evening.  I hope that you can participate. 

In addition, AFT-W executive board has motioned to reschedule the AFT-W Annual Convention, scheduled for April 26, to November 13-15 as originally planned.  Please mark your calendars. 

As I travel around the state, I see firsthand that Wisconsin has the best teaching force and public employee force in this nation, in WEAC and AFT-W alike. Our working together can only make us stronger.  Thank you for being engaged in this merger process, and I hope you’ll continue to be.

In unity,

Kim Kohlhaas

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AFT-Wisconsin Executive Board

President

Kim Kohlhaas – Superior Federation of Teachers, Local 202

Executive Vice President

Joe Lowndes-Madison Area Technical College, Local 243

Secretary

Pam Campbell-Eau Claire Schools Classified Staff Federation, Local 4018

Treasurer

Vickie Boeder-Madison Area Technical College, Local 243

Vice President Graduate Employees

Adrienne Pagac-Teaching Assistants Association, Local 3220

Vice President Higher Education

Aaron Crandall-United Faculty and Academic Staff, Local 223

Vice President PK-12

Cheryl Myers-Menasha Teachers Union, Local 1166

Vice President PSRP

Cynthia Dallmann-Madison Area Technical College, Local 243

Vice President State Employees

Greg Georg-Wisconsin Professional Employees Council, Local 4848

Vice President WTCS

Michael Gradinjan-Moraine Park Technical College, Local 3338

Retiree Council

Kathy Monaghan

Vice President At Large (6)

Donalea Dinsmore-Wisconsin Science Professionals, Local 3732

Mark Evenson-The Assoc. of University of Wisconsin Professionals, Local 3535

Michael Rosen, MATC-Milwaukee, AFT Local 212

Luz Sosa, MATC-Milwaukee, AFT Local 212

Michelle Ann Theisen, Superior Federation of Teachers, Local 202

Cynthia Wynn, Wisconsin State Public Defenders Assoc., Local 4822

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Oct 25, 2014
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Nov 15, 2014

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Just Dining Guide

The Workers’ Rights Center (WRC) has launched a project in partnership with the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice (ICWJ) focused on working conditions in central Madison restaurants. They have produced a guide to central Madison restaurants that informs customers and workers about the wages, hours, and working conditions for people who cook, prepare, and serve food.

The guide highlights employers who are going the extra mile to provide good quality, family supporting jobs in our community. It makes it easy for customers and workers to be able to compare and contrast the various restaurants in downtown Madison.

For more information, go to http://wrcmadison.org/WP/.

     

 

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