This week we met with State Senator Mark Miller to discuss unions and the future of the progressive movement in Wisconsin.
Mark: I have read about the Indivisible movement in the papers and I’ve been so happy to see this taking place all over the country. I know that there have been lots of set backs since Act 10, I was the Democratic leader then, but I’m pleased to see the sustained energy.
Question: Which do you think has the larger impact on the people of Wisconsin: union issues or redistricting and voter suppression.
Mark: Not everyone appreciates the importance of unions. Unions are one part of relieving economic distress. If you can negotiate pay it is easier to raise wages. This is how you can raise household income. For many people, for example the ones who voted for Trump, this is not as big of an issue. Some of these people feel left behind by the economy due to short comings in our policies. These are the same people that voted for Obama before, but voted for Trump due to economic distress. So people are impacted by both, but unions are not on their radar as much.
Question: Is there a way to have progressive feet on the ground against gerrymandering and ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)?
Mark: People don’t always want to hear about these issues from politicians like myself, they typically prefer to hear it from neighbors. That is why grass root efforts like this are important. Compared to how we used to be, we are so extremely divided into camps now. When I first ran for office it was split about one third of people would always vote Democrat, one third would always vote Republican, and the middle is where the decisions would be made. Now the split is more like 45% Democrat and 45% Republican, and the remaining 10% in the middle swings it. Focus on the Wisconsin Supreme Court races. The transparency (or lack of transparency) of money in politics is an important issue that the Supreme Court would help. If we focus on this race it could be a way to allow for more disclosure.
Question: There is a proposal out about Badger care for all. What are your thoughts?
Mark: This would allow people to buy into Wisconsin’s version of Medicaid. I am already signed on and support this. When I was a private employer, my ability to provide benefits for my employees relied on how we did the previous year. If our profits were down, coverage for pregnancy was typically dropped because we couldn’t afford it. I did not like this. If you are a citizen of an industrialized area, you should have health insurance.
Question: What are you working on right now and what are your areas of focus?
Mark: My main focus is on elections and environmental issues. Elections are fundamental to our democracy and should be determined by the campaign and not unknown third-party money. We should also have public funding for Supreme Court races. I have also been active in working on issues of water management in the Central Sands area of Wisconsin.
Rep. Mark Pocan has also encouraged us to create a Progressive Caucus in the State Senate and we are moving forward with this idea. You’ll be hearing more about this in the future. We will introduce progressive legislature and have a core of people who can meet with groups like yours.