‘We stand united to improve the lives of everyone in Wisconsin’

SONY DSCLa Crosse teacher John Havlicek told a crowd of labor supporters at the State Capitol Tuesday that we stand united not just for our own families, “but for our neighbors and our communities.”

“When Governor Walker launched his first attack on labor four years ago, many of you were here.  I looked around and saw carpenters, plumbers, firemen, you name it,” said Havlicek, president of the La Crosse Education Association. “Now, I want everyone here to know that we stand with you.  We stand united in our quest to improve the lives of everyone in Wisconsin.  We live the credo that we are stronger when we stand together.  We believe that if one of us hurts, we all hurt.

“Now, some legislators are again trying to attack their political opponents with no regard for whom they hurt in the process.  We must stand together, not in anger or hatred or attack, but in honesty and courage.  We must realize that this battle will not be won quickly or easily.”

Havlicek was one of several speakers at the rally lashing out at the so-called “right to work” legislation that is being fast-tracked through the Republican-controlled Legislature. The bill is designed to undermine Wisconsin’s private-sector unions in much the same way Act 10 stripped public employee unions of their bargaining rights four years ago. Havlicek said he stands in opposition to the legislation “because of the effects it will have on our communities,” where many families are already struggling.

“We have already reached a watershed point in our state and our country.  For the first time since they have been keeping records, over 50% of public school students now qualify for Free and Reduced meals, they live in some measure of poverty.  These students suffer from incredible amounts of stress.  They have stress related to basic needs like food, clothing, health care, housing, etc. Their parents have employment stress (not just job stress) but whether or not they will be able to find and keep a job, due to the economic woes that persist in Wisconsin, largely due to the policies of the current administration.”

Havlicek said we must use this opportunity to re-forge common bonds.

“We must unite the union members with individuals.  We must unite the factory workers with the office workers.  We must unite the church leaders with the civic leaders with the labor leaders with the political leaders.  We must reach across this contrived political divide, the false narrative of hatred for those who disagree with us, to do what is best for all citizens of this great state.  We must see our neighbors as our family members.  When we do this, we can challenge anyone no matter the obstacles, and accomplish great things.”

Later, Havlicek spoke at a hearing of the Senate Labor and Government Reforms Committee. In prepared testimony, he said, in part:

“All research on this legislation shows that it does not improve the lives of those it affects.

“Over the last 4 years, your party has had the majority.  You have taken that majority and used it to bludgeon your political enemies.  But, in your haste to punish me, you have also hurt my family, my neighbors, my community, and the people of this state.  The effects of these actions have started to rebound upon people who agree with you politically, so that you are even starting to hurt your allies.  You have lowered wages, you have decreased the standard of living, and you have decimated public services for those who need them most.  Is this truly why you entered politics?

“The only people you have helped are people that are able to write $500K checks to re-election campaigns.  You have not helped the common people.  Are you following your personal legend?

“Are you improving yourself so as to improve the lives of the people around you?  Or, are you pushing others down, so as to further separate us from yourselves?

“Every day, I make the choice to have the courage of my convictions.  Today, I have the courage to speak truth to power.  I encourage you, the members of this committee, to have the courage to do what is right, not what is politically expedient and attractive to those who disregard others with whom they disagree.

“I ask you today to have the courage to examine your convictions; to listen to dissent instead of stifling it, and try to see things from another’s point of view.  I am confident that if you do this, you will come to the same conclusion that I have: that this legislation is bad for vast majority of the citizens of Wisconsin.”