Monday afternoon 350 people rallied at the Talgo train manufacturing plant in Milwaukee to protest Governor-elect Scott Walker’s plan to scuttle the high-speed rail project. The size and energy of the event refl ects the growing public outcry against giving thousands of family supporting jobs away to Illinois and other states. The lead sponsors of the event where Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods project, the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, and Voces de la Frontera. Speakers included Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, Reverend Ken Wheeler of Cross Lutheran Church, Wesley Carter of the League of Young Voters Education Fund, State Senator Spencer Coggs, State Representative Barbara Toles, Milwaukee Common Council president Willie Hines, and Alderman Willie Wade
“If Governor-elect Scott Walker puts the brakes on trains, he is also putting the brakes on good jobs,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.
“We are here today to talk about common sense instead of political sense,” said Ken Wheeler, Pastor of Cross Lutheran Church.
“Cancelling the train makes no sense when Milwaukee and Wisconsin so desperately need jobs,” said Alderman Willie Wade.
“This is all about jobs and creating more jobs,” said Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines. “It is a horrendous waste for Wisconsin not to get on board this project.”
“Scott Walker says Wisconsin is open for business,” said State Senator Spencer Coggs. “Apparently he means it is open to sending business to Illinois.”
“This site once provided thousands of manufacturing jobs which supported a thriving middle class,” said State Representative Barbara Toles. “The Talgo plant and the additional development it will spur is essential to restoring Milwaukee’s middle class.”
“At the height of the employment crisis gripping Wisconsin, it is absolutely unbelievable that we would even consider throwing away a large federal investment that will create thousands of family supporting jobs,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “To add insult to injury, if Scott Walker has his way Wisconsin will have to pay the federal government $100 million in order to send jobs to Illinois, New York, and other states.”
Organizations participating in the event:
Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO
Voces de la Frontera
9 to 5
AFT Local 212 (MATC)
Christian Community Caucus of Milwaukee
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Democratic Party of Milwaukee County
Grassroots North Shore
Greater Milwaukee Human Rights Network
League of Young Voters Education Fund
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
Milwaukee Area Labor Council
Milwaukee County Democratic Party
Milwaukee Graduate Assistants Association
Organizing for America
SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin
SEIU Local 1 Wisconsin
Sierra Club John Muir Chapter
Waukesha County Green Team
State Representative Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee), who supports the rail project but didn’t speak at the rally stressed her continued opposition to cancelling Wisconsin’s high speed rail project, highlighting concerns over losing jobs that are desperately needed in Wisconsin.
“Rail jobs are real jobs that we cannot afford to lose,” said Rep. Grigsby. “Democrats worked tirelessly over the past two years trying to bring new jobs to this state. Is Governorelect Walker really so eager to send them away?”
Cancelling Wisconsin’s investment in high speed rail was a focal point of Governor-elect Walker’s campaign, but only recently have the true costs of cancelling the project been revealed. Cancellation of the high speed rail project will add an estimated $100 million to the state’s deficit and cost what the Wisconsin Department of Transportation estimates to be nearly 14,000 construction and permanent jobs expected to result from this federal investment. In addition, Talgo, the train manufacturing business that recently came to Wisconsin, stated it is unlikely to remain in the state unless the previously approved project moves forward.
“We need a plan to create jobs, not send them away,” Grigsby said. “Talgo’s multimillion dollar investment is critical to the revitalization of the former Tower Automotive site and reviving the surrounding community. I am eager to work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, to build our economy, but cancelling this historic investment is bad for our budget and bad for the future of our state.”
The governor-elect’s camp also released a statement saying that they did have some union support still opposing the project. This statement was also released on the heels of a Journal Sentinel Watchdog article that columnist Daniel Bice wrote revealing that the Walker campaign received $128,859 in contributions from road builders when the Barrett campaign only received $13,900. These figures do not include donations from paving, asphalt and other road construction firms that could have come from outside groups, because they do not have to disclose that information.
According to the Bice article, this support only came once Walker began talking about re-directing the rail money to go to road and bridge construction projects, again a position that was never realistic, due to the fact that high speed rail funds are and have been designated for that project only.
Last week, after the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reiterated to Governor-elect Walker through a letter that the rail funds again were only for high-speed rail, Walker still pushed for re-directing the funds.