On June 6, Democrats from across Wisconsin will come to Milwaukee to cast their votes for who they want to be chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin at this year’s state convention.
We could talk all day about who is running, the differences between the candidates, their platforms, and their vision for the party as we get closer to the crucial election of 2016. But of the five candidates who are running to represent the party and our values, one candidate’s background remains somewhat of a mystery.
Over the past few days, social media has been buzzing about Martha Laning (but not for the positive reasons you’d assume). Laning, for those who don’t know, recently joined the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and then ran for the state Senate in the 9th district. When the votes were totaled, she had lost by a 20-point margin.
But we know little else about Laning, where she truly stands on the issues, and what she would do if she were to become chair of the party, (she has yet to release any documented plans).
One thing that has begun to catch peoples’ eye is her statement of economic interest that she had to file as a candidate in 2014 in order to attempt to run for public office. Here is a copy of the statement made available through the Wisconsin GAB:
One thing jumps out more than anything, which are the multiple companies and corporations in which she has at least $50,000 of investments. However, of these companies the one that stands out beyond any other is Target Inc. Laning states on her website that Target is one of her former employers.
Target, for many years, has been a leader in shutting out worker’s rights to organize and form a union. So much so, that at one point in time they had a video that they made new employees watch explaining how Target is working to defeat unionized labor. It is literally an “anti-union propaganda” video. You can check out that video for yourself here: https://youtu.be/lkKOk0lv0_U
Target has been anti-union and has stood out beyond many companies in rejecting the notion of raising the minimum wage. It is not inappropriate to ask whether or not Laning feels that Target employees have the right to unionize, or take a stand against Target for not being in favor of raising the minimum wage. If not, having a chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin who directly profits from this anti-union, anti-wage company, a company that fights against the values of the Democratic Party, is simply inappropriate and she should publicly give up her investment in the corporation from her days of being a corporate leader at Target.
Think of it this way: would we be ok with having a chair that was a corporate leader of Walmart and still held huge investments in the company without denouncing its labor practices? That’s highly doubtful.
But the question on her stance over the minimum wage doesn’t end there. Lately a video has resurfaced of a debate when she was running for the state Senate where she said that raising the minimum wage to $10.10/hr is “tough to chew on” and that giving workers a 39% increase in pay is too tough on business owners like herself.
Perhaps her views on the minimum wage have flip-flopped over the past six months, but once stating that she wasn’t in favor of $10/hr means that she certainly wouldn’t be in favor of $15/hr. The “Fight for $15” is at the core of the Democratic movement, pushing businesses and government leaders to raise the wage so hardworking people who work fulltime can live a decent and not be forced onto public assistance.
Anyone’s view on an issue can change or evolve over time (for example, President Obama and his “evolving” opinion on same-sex marriage), or you can just flip-flop. But the belief in raising the minimum wage and standing up for working people is at the core of the Democratic Party. It’s what makes us different from the other side that believes wealth should trickle upwards and that income inequality isn’t an issue. The leader of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin should never, at any point, have held the view that a simple $10/hr is “too much” and have the interests of business ahead of the interests of hardworking people.
When you consider her investment in Target from her days of being a corporate leader, her holdings in several other massive corporations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and her fundamental belief (before flip-flopping) that $10/hr would hurt business, it’s no wonder why she won’t take a stand against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade deal that has the potential of lowering wages, outsourcing jobs, and filtering earnings to the top rather than to those who work hard and deserve good pay for the labor.
Some people might wonder why all of this is an issue at all, and simply dismiss the fact that Laning has such massive corporate holdings and was once a corporate leader for a company that is blatantly anti-union. The reason why this is an issue is because it’s at the core of the debate of growing income inequality. The rich get richer while everyday people are forced to struggle.
While Laning’s dedication to the party and its values are questionable at best, she certainly espouses corporate values, and is the embodiment of corporate America.
All of this calls into question why any elected official or labor leader would support Laning. Perhaps it’s because she has never been truly vetted and had they known this information, their willingness to stand with her might not have come to be. Why would any labor leader want to stand with Laning knowing her pro-corporate, anti-union history? I’ll have more on that in the near future.
Finally, why does her running mate, state Rep. David Bowen, stand alongside her corporate values knowing full well that Laning has anti-wage and anti-union tendencies?Laning is so fresh to the scene, and so new to the Democratic Party, that it’s time for a thorough vetting. These are questions that we need to ask, and these are facts that we deserve to know.