state Sen. Lena Taylor |
Iowa joins Mississippi as the only states with
the distinction of having never elected a woman
to the U.S. House or Senate or as governor.
Wisconsin state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee,
who delivered the keynote address at the Polk
County Democrats' 11th annual Women's Event
last week, said if voters would just think about
meatloaf the glass ceiling would come crashing
"I believe that a woman's perspective in
politics is very important," Taylor said
in an interview with Political Mercury. "I
believe she brings a unique perspective. You
know, we're multi-taskers. Who in the world
thought of taking a little bit of ground beef
and putting some crackers and some bread with
it and some eggs and some onion and bell pepper
and make a meatloaf — and stretch it as far
as you can with noodles and spaghetti. The point
is women are individuals who are very resourceful."
Iowa needs to be able say: We're not like Mississippi,
"We need to engage and we need to be active
because we are the mothers of the young people
who are coming behind us, and we weren't always
part of the ‘we the people' in America,"
Taylor has gained national prominence as an
advocate for workers' rights with Wisconsin
in the fore in that political imbroglio.
"This is not just a Wisconsin fight that
you see that we're having," Taylor said.
"This is really a moment in America's history
where we have to determine whether or not we
believe in her values, her democracy, whether
or not we believe in her dream and the access
to her dream to all of her citizens."
First elected to the Wisconsin Assembly in 2003,
Taylor was one of the state's "Fab 14"
lawmakers who left the state in hopes of preventing
Gov. Scott Walker from passing a "Budget
Repair Bill" that eliminated many collective
bargaining rights of public employees, one Taylor
characterized as "overreaching and radical."
She says her focus has always been fighting
for the middle class and the working poor.
"Democracy in the workplace is called collective
bargaining," Taylor said.
Although federal law dating back to 1935 protects
the right of private employees to engage in
collective bargaining, there are no such protections
for public sector employees who choose to unionize.
Although Walker had argued that his bill would
leave collective bargaining in Wisconsin "fully
intact," the statement was given PolitiFact's
strongest rebuke of "pants on fire."
The Wisconsin bill carved out exceptions for
firefighters, police and state troopers, but
all other public sector unions saw at least
a partial reduction of their rights to collectively
bargain. Rights for about 5,000 home health
care workers and 2,800 employees of the University
of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, including
nurses, were completely repealed, and 30,000
University of Wisconsin System faculty and academic
staff had their rights to organize and bargain
completely rolled back from an earlier (Democratic)
state decision that allowed it.
Due to mostly conservative, but a few liberal,
shadowy influence groups chiming in on subsequent
recall elections, no one really knows how many
millions have been spent in Wisconsin in an
effort to either preserve or repeal Walker's
bill. Currently, Democrats remain one vote shy
in the Wisconsin Senate.
Taylor, only the second African-American woman
elected to the State Senate in Wisconsin in
that state's history, said she believes President
Obama has accomplishments that matter to the
"communities of color."
"If you're asking me whether or not he
has done enough, I believe that there's so much
more to be done, but he can't undo hundreds
of years of history in a couple of years,"
Taylor said. "He can't undo 400 years of
free labor that did not allow individuals to
get the same start out of the block that others
have been able to have."
Taylor said unemployment is rampant in the African-American
community and needs the focus of not just Obama
but other federal leaders and legislators at
the state level. CV
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa
newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily
Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.