Monday, April 23, 2012

A tale of two letters: Barrett and Falk talk unity, gender discrimination

Two open letters sent out today demonstrate positive character traits of Democratic recall candidates

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett wrote an open letter to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin today, urging party unification following the primary outcome on May 8, no matter who the winner might be.

In what Barrett described was "uncharted territory," he urged DPW Chairman Mike Tate to "convene a Unity Committee between now and the May 8th primary that is comprised of representatives" of each candidate within the Democratic primary field. Those representatives would be charged the duty of devising a plan to transition from a spirit of competitiveness to one of backing the winner of the primary, who will go on to face Gov. Scott Walker in the general recall election.

"Voters throughout Wisconsin are tired of the Walker Administration's drive to divide us in order to push an ideological agenda from out-of-state interests," Barrett wrote. "They look to Democrats now to end this divisive discord and restore dignity to our political discourse. We must reassure them with our plan for unity."

The plan for unity is an excellent way for the candidates to work together while they simultaneously campaign against each another. It's clear that the overall objective is the removal of Walker from office and the restoration of Wisconsin's values once he's removed. While the candidates should debate vigorously over what issues matter most to Wisconsinites, it's equally important to devise a strategy to come together once May 9th rolls around.

Another letter was also sent today by a second gubernatorial candidate, Kathleen Falk. This letter was sent to Gov. Walker himself requesting he explain why exactly he felt the need to sign legislation repealing an Equal Pay law in Wisconsin.

The act Walker signed removed punitive damages that could be rewarded to victims of gender discrimination in the workplace, a large deterrent towards employers potentially paying half of their employees less for the same work performed.

In her letter (in which she was joined by Reps. Christine Sinicki and Chris Taylor), Falk questioned whether Walker was being honest with the people of Wisconsin.

"Our request is necessary because the answer you have provided to the people of Wisconsin does not appear to be honest when compared to the facts," they wrote. They continued (PDF): offered the following rationale for repealing the Equal Pay Enforcement Act: "In the past, lawyers could clog up the legal system."

Since the Equal Pay Enforcement Act was signed into law in 2009, we reasonably assume you are claiming there has been an exponential rise in state lawsuits regarding pay discrimination claims filed by women in Wisconsin.

Contrary to your claim, you have provided no evidence that in the two‐year period since passage of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act that pay discrimination lawsuits are "clogging" the legal system.

In fact, you have not provided even one example of a suit being filed in that time period. Not a single suit.
The repeal of the law, in addition to taking away punitive damages that create incentives to pay women equally, also restricts women from accessing state courts to make their claims. Now, instead of going to their local courts to file a suit, women must travel to one of two federal courthouses, in either Madison or Milwaukee (a great distance to travel for a majority of women in the state).

Falk's criticism in Walker's motives for signing the bill are warranted. Walker has made phony excuses for repealing Equal Pay law, acquiescing to business interests rather than employee protections for the women of Wisconsin. It's a disgraceful move, one that Walker deservedly receives criticism for.

These two letters (from Barrett and from Falk) demonstrate that we do indeed have leaders within the Democratic primary field who will move Wisconsin forward following Walker's recall. No matter what the outcome will be, confidence in whoever wins should remain high. The fate of Wisconsin may depend on it.

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