Seven Ways Scott Walker and the GOP Are Still Trying to Screw Wisconsin's Poor, Working Class, and Just About Everybody Else
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5. It makes sense that Wisconsin’s child labor laws would be stronger than the federal government's; the state has a long and proud history of protecting workers’ rights. It’s also no surprise that Walker and company are looking to repeal those laws. The legislature is set to vote on a bill that would roll back limits to the number of hours teenagers are allowed to work. The bill would bring Wisconsin in line with federal limits, but it’s hard to argue that allowing employers to have 16- and 17-year-olds work an unlimited number of hours up to seven days a week is really going to help young people.
Without these limits, bill supporters like the Wisconsin Grocers Association would be able to avoid all the headaches that come with hiring older, experienced workers who might demand perks like consistent hours or flexibility to care for family members and staff stores with low-paid teenagers who are likely to be unfamiliar with their workplace rights.
6. The Voter ID law that Scott Walker signed at the end of May is his evil genius masterpiece. What does a wildly unpopular governor facing a recall by thousands of highly motivated voters do? Pass a law disenfranchising the people planning to vote against you! Wisconsin used to have some of the most liberal voting requirements in the nation: same-day registration, no ID required. Starting in 2012, voters will have to present a valid driver’s license or approved photo ID before being allowed to vote.
According to a University of Milwaukee study, non-white Wisconsin voters are far less likely to have a valid driver’s license than white voters, and nearly a quarter of voters older than 65 lack one. This means thousands of elderly and men and women of color will be required to pay for new identification cards before they will be allowed to exercise their right to vote. There are four times as many people of color living in poverty as there are white people. Democratic State Senator Lena Taylor called it a poll tax, and she’s right.
7. Craft beer? What do the thousands of people without broadband, health care and voting rights care about craft beer? This is still Wisconsin, after all, and everyone deserves access to the good stuff. Why make it harder for small Wisconsin-based breweries to sell their beer? Small breweries are facing new obstacles to growth because of a turf war between two of the world’s biggest beer companies. MillerCoors asked for help defending against Anheuser-Busch’s attempts to do more business in Wisconsin, and the legislature obliged. A proposal in the budget would change state law to forbid brewers from owning a wholesale distribution business, which would slow Anheuser-Busch’s expansion, but it could also make it harder for smaller local companies to increase their sales around the state. Apparently Wisconsin is only open for MillerCoors’ business.
Opposition to Walker’s plans is strong enough that six Republican State Senators will face recall elections later this summer, and Democrats and progressive groups like Defend Wisconsin are already planning for a recall drive against Walker when he becomes eligible in January 2012. The Republican party’s stranglehold on Wisconsin’s state government means that Walker’s budget will almost surely pass, but the protests will not stop, and there is hope. If Democrats can win just three of those summer recall elections -- a totally plausible scenario -- they would regain control of the Senate and could stop further damage to the lives of Wisconsin’s citizens.
Meredith Clark writes about politics and lives in Brooklyn. Find her on Twitter at @MeredithLClark.