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Wisconsin: Lawmakers Get Public Input on Need for Living-wage Jobs
Chris Hrapsky

October 25, 2011
View the Original Article

While Governor Walker continues pushing job creation in the state, a jobs forum with state lawmakers in Oshkosh brought out an emotional call to action from the public.

Before a forum at UW-Oshkosh, we talked with two people who came with similar goals -- a job they can afford to live with.

"We need to make sure that our elected officials know that they need to take a more proactive stance. They need to start passing better policies that will better Wisconsin, and right now our state legislators aren't doing that," UWO junior Mike Pawlak said.

"I'm just looking for a living wage job, and if I can't get that, I don't know where I"m going to end up," Tonja Adams told us.

Adams has been without full-time work for two years. Her unemployment benefits have run out -- and worse, a tumor now threatens her life.

"I've gone through my savings and I don't know how I can survive after surgery without a job," she said.

She attended the crowded forum -- literally, crying for help.

"I'm willing to work. I want to work. Now I can work, but there are no jobs," she cried. "All I'm asking from you today is to make some kind of commitment to me that you'll do something to help me in six weeks, not two years from now. I can't wait."

She's not alone.

There were college students. "What I'm focused on is after graduation we are going to have to start paying back these loans. We need living wage jobs. We need to make sure we can start paying this back," Pawlak told legislators.

And postal workers, like Balynda Schweitzer, who asked lawmakers, "Are you willing to step forward for Wisconsin and back the retraining at the technical college level?"

They're all frustrated, looking to lawmakers for answers, some of whom are frustrated themselves.

"Here's what I think we should do, here's what I think we are doing wrong, and here's what we need to do as a state to continue to push forward. You know, the economy is complicated. If someone had a magic wand to figure it all out globally, they would," Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) said.

Others are hoping new measures will start to fill the gaps.

"We've been passing a lot of bills that have to do with tax credits, tax cuts for businesses, promoting new business. We've changed regulations so that we can be more accommodating," Rep. Richard Spanbauer (R-Town of Algoma) said.

But to these folks, aid can't come soon enough.

"You've got to find common ground," Adams said, "to help somebody like myself. That's all."