By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Alyson Leon, a clinical nurse specialist in Milwaukee, oversees fives units at her work, including the intensive care unit. When the coronavirus pandemic began, Leon faced heightened demands at work.
“Every day felt like a week and every week felt like a month,” Leon said.
During this time, her grandfather tested positive for COVID-19 and passed away. At the same time, her sister, who has been unemployed due to the pandemic, found work at an event where Sen. Ron Johnson was speaking. At the event, Johnson, who had tested positive for COVID-19, failed to wear a mask. Leon’s sister later tested positive for COVID-19, which affected her ability to attend their grandfather’s funeral.
For someone like Leon who had committed so much work and energy into keeping her community safe, it was indescribable to see that elected officials didn’t feel the need to exercise the same thoughtfulness.
Leon shared her story during a virtual roundtable hosted by the Wisconsin Working Families Party and the Green New Deal Network on Wednesday, April 7. The purpose of the roundtable, which featured Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Congresswoman Gwen Moore, was to incentive the public to call on their Congress members to act with their constituents’ interests in mind when considering the THRIVE Act.
The virtual roundtable was purposefully scheduled to take place during Congress’ recess.
“In recent history, these Congressional recesses have become important moments for members of Congress to take the pulse of their constituents,” Nora Rasman of the Frontline Wisconsin Federal Issues Campaign coordinator explained. “We’re calling this the Recovery Recess because we want our elected officials to get the progress reports on how they’re doing delivering the recovery we need.”
Rasman explained why Progressives are pushing for the THRIVE Act.
The THRIVE Act, which is an acronym for Transform, Heal, Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy is an economic recovery package. The plan consists of eight pillars which include creating good and safe jobs, investing in Black, brown and Indigenous communities, combating environmental injustice, ensuring equity and fairness in the work force and more.
The THRIVE Act was introduced last Monday, March 29. President Joe Biden’s American Job Plan is a good first step, Rasman said, but it is not big enough and there is concern that Black, brown and Indigenous communities will continue to suffer from unemployment and low wages.
“We’ve been working incredibly hard right here in the state to make sure we did what we could to provide relief,” Barnes said. “But unfortunately, we didn’t always have the partners in the federal government to make that a reality and because of that people continue to suffer.”
American Jobs Plans is a good first step, but more needs to be done and it is good to see people are demanding more of their government, he said.
“We need some more help,” Barnes said. “We need some more relief to make sure we are able to thrive and to make sure we come out of this pandemic stronger than we went in. Better is possible and I think better is nonnegotiable at this point.”
The THRIVE agenda aligns with the work that Barnes and Gov. Tony Evers are doing. It’s not just about creating jobs, Barnes said, it’s about creating good jobs.
Vikisha Waldkirch an HR professional in Milwaukee was fortunate enough to keep her job and work at home.
“Working from home was a blessing and I know not many people had that opportunity,” she said.
Not everyone could work from home and not everyone kept their jobs, she said. Waldkirch expressed her desire that more senators such as Johnson, would be more receptive to the economic conditions that Wisconsinites are going through.
Moore, who showed the package of facts while presenting her remarks, noted that she aspires to every goal embedded within the THRIVE Act.
“Public sentiment is everything,” she said. “We had the hardest time just getting this last package together.”
She said she plans to explore every possible angle to see if she can find the money the THRIVE Act is calling for, which is $1 trillion a year for the next 10 years. And while she’s searching for the money, she remains committed to the act’s principles.
“I know that Wisconsin deserves better,” Jennifer Knox, the national director of organizing and tech innovation at Working Families Party, said. “And if you believe that too, I want you to text BETTER to 30403 and today we’re going to demand that our sitting senator, Ron Johnson, vote for the care and the jobs and the relief that we need, but clearly he needs to hear from each of you today.”