Fighting Governor’s Budget Cuts, The Threat to Unions… and The Upward Mobility of Women and Blacks 

— By Dian Palmer (March/April 2011)

Dian Palmer
Dian Palmer

Dian Palmer, RN, is President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, and President of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare.

African Americans in Wisconsin should clearly understand the impacts of Governor Scott Walker’s attacks on workers and the consequences for our communities.

In Wisconsin, nearly one in four African American workers is unemployed. Black unemployment (24 percent) is more than three times the rate of whites (7 percent), far exceeding the national black unemployment rate. One in three of Wisconsin’s black workers is underemployed (“The State of Working Wisconsin,” by the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, COWS).

Many women of color are familiar with inequities in workplace. Nationally, black women in the public sector make significantly less than everyone else with a median wage of $15.50 compared to the sector’s overall median wage of $18.38 (white men make $21.24), according to the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. And, because women comprise 52 percent of state-level public sector jobs and 61 percent of local-level public sector jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Walker’s cuts hurt African American women and families beyond the pocket book. The governor’s extreme cuts will severely limit essential healthcare programs that families depend on, including Medicaid, BadgerCare, and FamilyCare. His proposals would eliminate Medicaid coverage for 70,000 Wisconsinites and restrict benefits for thousands of others.

Having the right to negotiate things like decent, livable wages, affordable healthcare, and secure retirement benefits is the difference between gaining workplace equality for women or more social and economic discrimination. The bottom line: Walker’s actions impede the progress of women—specifically African American women.

SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin—more than 15,000 healthcare workers and providers at hundreds of health care facilities like clinics, hospitals nursing and private homes across the state—believes that attacks on workers are attacks on everyone: children, families, workers, and our future.
We challenge all working women, both union and non-union, in Wisconsin and around the country to be a part of the solution and a voice to be reckoned with.

Plan to attend upcoming events like public hearings, rallies, vigils, or town hall meetings in your area (visit and look for Solidarity Events for Wisconsin Workers).

Unions and Upward Mobility for Black and Women (March/April 2011)By John Schmitt

A report using national data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) demonstrates how unionization raises the wages of the typical woman worker by 11.2% compared to their non-union peers. The study goes on to show that unionization also increases the likelihood that a woman worker will have health insurance and a pension and notes that union membership results in health care and pension gains on par with the gains of a college education. Black workers in unions in otherwise low-wage occupations earned, on average, 14 percent more than their non-union counterparts. Unionized black workers in low-wage occupations were also 20 percentage points more likely than comparable non-union workers to have employer-provided health insurance, and 28 percentage points more likely to have a pension plan.ur findings demonstrate that black workers who are able to bargain collectively earn more and are more likely to have benefits associated with good jobs.

Demise Of Collective Bargaining, Cuts In Health Care, Assault On Paid Sick Days And Family Leave … Consequences Of Governor’s Budget Cuts (March/April 2011)

Ellen Bravo– Ellen Bravo, Executive Director, Family Values @ Work Consortium

What do the cuts in Governor Walker’s budget and the array of proposals being hurried through the legislature mean for Black women? In a word: disaster. Whether it’s the demise of collective bargaining for public employees, cuts in health care and welfare, or the assault on paid sick days and family leave, Black women are in for a disproportionate share of the misery being doled out in Madison.

Start with collective bargaining. Nationally, the public sector is the number two employer for African-American women. On average, women at the state and local levels account for 52% and 61% respectively of public sector employees.

For women of color in particular, unionized public sector jobs have meant a road out of poverty and a life not of luxury, but at least dignity. Thirty percent of African American women in Wisconsin live in poverty, double the overall national rate. Unions have been one of the most effective tools for fighting this inequality.
Numerous studies by now have discounted the myth that public sector workers are overpaid. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, when controlling for education and other factors, Wisconsin state and local government employees earn 4.8 percent less on average per year than their private sector counterparts.

Who is paid better than their private sector counterparts are women in the bottom rung jobs – food service workers, clericals and others who through their union have living wages and benefits. Collective bargaining has meant a revaluing of those jobs which have long been low-wage not because the women in them are unskilled, but because their skills have been trivialized and underpaid.

In Wisconsin, two fields that fit this description are child care providers and home health care workers, again jobs disproportionately filled by women of color. These workers in recent years won the right to bargain with the state – a right now being demolished by the Walker administration.

The union advantage doesn’t end with pay. Patty Yunk, director of public policy at AFSCME District Council 48, is quoted as saying, “When you’re unionized, you’re equalized.” Through their unions, women are also more likely to have maternity leave, paid sick time, and protections against sexual harassment and unfair job assignments.

Working women throughout the state will suffer as a result of cuts being proposed for state insurance programs for women and children, the end to funding for family planning services for low-income women, and undoing the requirement that insurance policies that cover prescriptions include contraceptives. The fact that these programs help prevent unwanted pregnancies show how the zeal for budget cutting at the expense of working and poor people trumps rationality as well as fairness.

In an especially mean-spirited kick at the poor, Scott Walker has also proposed a $20 per month cut to the paltry grants under Wisconsin Works. The current grant was badly in need of a raise; it’s been frozen since 1997.

And the war on workers doesn’t end there. Recently the Court of Appeals upheld the Milwaukee paid sick days ordinance, passed by nearly 70 percent of the voters in November 2008 and delayed for more than two years by a lawsuit from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. The Republican-led legislature is trying to steal this victory with a bill already passed by the state Senate and heading to the Assembly. Black women are much less likely to have paid sick days on their jobs and would benefit most from this new workplace standard.

Republicans are also trying to gut Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), by ending all provisions that are more generous than the federal law. That means taking away the right to substitute any paid time a worker has earned for the unpaid leave, and cutting out some part-time and rural workers.
State Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay) noted how this bill would add to the economic inequality in our state. “The have-nots will be women and children,” Pasch said, “while the haves will be men and big business.”

When the Governor and legislature stripped collective bargaining from the budget, they acknowledged what most of Wisconsites had already figured out: this fight was never about a fiscal crisis. It’s about a raw attempt to consolidate power in the hands of Walker’s wealthy corporate backers.
Black women are among those with the most at stake.

Ellen Bravo is an activist for working women. She started working for 9 to 5, National Association for Working Women in 1982, founded the Milwaukee chapter and served as the national director until l2004. She currently teaches Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Bravo is Executive Director of Family Values @ Work Consortium, a network of 15 state coalitions that work for policies such as paid sick days and affordable family leave.


President, Josephine D. Hill
Wisconsin African American Women’s Center
A True Community Resource (November/December 2010)

Josephine D. HillMotivated by the dream to operate a full-service health spa for blacks that would be located in the heart of the community, a diverse group of 33 women each invested $1,000 to seed this ambition
in 1998.

Josephine D. Hill, President of the Wisconsin African American Women’s Center explains, “Initially we had an option to purchase a building on MLK Drive. In 2001, the building that we currently occupy was in foreclosure. The documents for it landed on the desk of one of our founding members who just happened to be the president of Legacy Bank at that time.”

The investors still held onto the notion of owning a health spa and commissioned architectural renderings of their vision with equipment cost. Finally deciding that the projected expenses to convert the building were too costly, they altered their goals. Hill said, “We hosted a series of fundraisers to generate capitol and closed on this building in 2001. The fashion show and hat auction each spring has become a staple for women who have a passion for the time tested tradition of wearing bold, beautiful, fashionable hats.

Affordability, flexibility and a staff that is committed to providing accommodating service contribute to the magnetic qualities of WAAWC. It is located along a commercial/residential corridor at 3020 West Vliet Street and a true community resource. According to Hill, use of the building naturally evolved because of its office space. Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin is the anchor tenant. “We also started what has become a small businesses incubator. A training center for seniors is also housed within the center which also offers transitional office space.

Not just Blacks but Hispanics and Asian groups also regularly host their events here. It is a popular site for receptions, educational, cultural and special events including family reunions, funeral repast, private parties, lectures, workshops and luncheons

Probed about her position with WAAW Hill responded, “I was one of the original group of 33. We hired a program director for the initial 18 months, for many reasons, that didn’t work out. I became the volunteer director in 2003 after ending my career as a librarian with Milwaukee Public Schools. I decided that I would volunteer two days a week. That has evolved into seven years and seven days. Being here has been a labor of love.” The volunteer leadership also includes vice president, Rubye Jackson, and a core of board members who manage other events and activities.

WAAW Board of Directors and Volunteer Staff
Josephine D. Hill, President
Ruby Jackson, Vice President
Marilyn Adams, Secretary / Treasurer
Helen Boyd
Linda Jackson Conyers
Joanne Swan
Congresswoman Gwen Moore
Lena Martin
Shirley Reaves
Deloris Sims
Darlene Rose
Stella Love
Dawn Gozet
Silverene Ward
Elizabeth Smith


April Holland and Sandra White
April Holland and Sandra White

Friendship is a relationship of choice and one of the closest bonds shared between two individuals. Studies demonstrate that the ties of female friendships have tremendous benefits, psychologically, physically and spiritually.

Experts confirm that the emotional security and social support that friendships provide women is also a survival strategy. In fact, friendship is one of the keys to a long and more satisfying life. The Tending Instinct by Shelley E. Taylor reports that, “The actions of hugging, listening, sharing, connecting and celebrating life with friends decreases the stress hormone cortisol in women and increases the feel-good hormone and “friendship elixir,” oxytocin.

Although technology increases our access to other people, intimate relationships are becoming fewer. Families are smaller and frequently not connected. Consequently, for many of us, our innate yearning for intimate relationships suffers.

September is National Women’s Friendship Month- a celebration that is endorsed by the governors of 34 states. Why are women’s friendships so important that they warrant national recognition? Research shows that friendships between women have a wide range of health benefits that also affect socio-economic results. Through their friendships women build nurturing, emotionally fulfilling bonds that serve as highly effective support systems. Within these relationships, women gain self-esteem and validation. They find support in times of trouble and safe avenues for expressing their feelings and thoughts. Women with close female friends experience greater happiness and fulfillment.

A University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study On Friendship Among Women found that in times of stress, when men normally respond with a “fight or flight” reflex, women “tend and befriend.” Women pull together to support and nurture one another. They fill the emotional gaps in other relationships i.e. marriage and, help us remember who we really are. A Harvard Medical School Nurse’s Health Study further shows that because stress also wreaks havoc on blood glucose levels, healing, bone density and the aging process, women’s friendships can help counteract all these detrimental effects. Researchers also concluded that NOT having close friends is as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.

April Holland and Sandra White
Sandra White proudly shares, “I have known April Holland for 40 years and she is my best friend. We met on a bus when I was in high school in Rockford IL . April is easy to talk with plus she is always positive and she has a genuine love for people. She always sees the good in others and is willing to go the extra mile in her friendships. Plus she has always been someone I know I can trust. April also shares my values about life and how it should be approach. She is a professional that practices her faith in her career especially when it comes to the golden rule” doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. April also knows how to have fun, laugh and not take life so seriously. We have had lots of good times over the years. She a true friend and I must say I feel fortunate that she is my friend.

New Best Friends

Karen Baker and Denise White
Karen Baker and Denise White

Karen Baker explains, I have known Pastor White for a year but it feels like we have been friends much longer. She is my neighbor. What keeps us together is our ability to go on without fear or doubt. I admire that she is truly a caring person. Last year I experienced a very serious illness and wasn’t able to get around. Pastor White visited regularly. She brought food and offered to clean my house. She would sit for hours just to make sure that I was comfortable. She would pray and when she finished, I can honestly say I felt better.

Denise White says, a real friend is hard to find. You have to know who you are and your purpose in being in this world, then friends will find you. God bought us together but we keep us together, by being ourselves and having a genuine love for one another. Its not hard to be a friend to Karen. She wants to see others blessed. I admire her willingness to lift you up even when she is in pain. Sister Karen doesn’t mind sharing the light. She is a jewel.

Friends are essential for emotional survival. You cannot underestimate the value of Friendships.
– Emma J. Williams, ACSW, LCSW, LMFT
People with friends tend to handle stress and cope better with loses. Friendships are even more important for individuals who have very small families or don’t have close family ties. Then you have someone to connect with socially and emotionally.

The term friendship may be used too loosely by referring to someone as friends when they are really just an acquaintance. Someone who exploits a friendship really isn’t a friend. We should never take advantage (use in a negative or unfair manner) of friendship. I have a patient who talks about how draining a particular friendship is. Whenever that so-called friend phoned, it is to dump about her problems or complain. Another example of exploitation would be to expect a friend to pay all the time or taking a friend for granted because you think they can afford it.

There are many serious consequences of not having friends. People who have the worst time coping with life are those who don’t have friends, don’t participate in any organizations and don’t go to church. So, outside of their family, they have no social connections. They are isolated. They stay home and overeat. These people tend to be more anxious and depressed.

Emma J. Williams is the director of Child, Adolescent, Family and Marriage Therapy Associates


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