Five Dem U.S. Senate candidates during a virtual forum backed expanding Medicare and various labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace.
Candidates participating in the Citizen Action of Wisconsin/People’s Action forum Tuesday included: Wausau radiologist Dr. Gillian Battino, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and Alex Lasry, who’s on leave from his job with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Each supported expanding Medicare to cover all Americans and passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. The legislation would ban employers from bringing claims against unions that conduct secondary strikes and increase protections for those who work to enforce unfair labor protections, such as whistleblowers, among other things.
They also largely agreed on the need to address immigration, criminal justice and climate change.
Candidates were given two minutes each to respond to questions on a host of issues during the two-hour forum.
Battino and Godlewski said they want to expand Medicare coverage and find a way to reduce prescription drug costs.
“We are all tired of using taxpayer dollars to develop pharmaceuticals and then be charged exorbitant increasing fees to utilize those pharmaceuticals,” Battino said.
Godlewski also said she wants to tackle high health care costs and increase health care access in rural areas. She said increasing broadband access would at least somewhat improve health care availability in rural communities.
In order to protect unions, Nelson said that in addition to passing the PRO Act, the U.S. Senate needs to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, which banned several kinds of union strikes, hiring practices and union donations to federal candidates, among other things.
“The reason why we’ve not made progress on this is because two-thirds of the U.S. Senate are comprised of millionaires and billionaires and you’re not going to get these types of reforms by sending another millionaire or a billionaire to the U.S. Senate,” Nelson said.
Barnes said passing the PRO Act will never happen unless voters get rid of wealthy people in the Senate like Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and get “rid of the influence of the ultra-wealthy in our politics, because it is destroying us from the inside out.”
Lasry said Congress needs to abolish the filibuster to pass the PRO Act.
“We’ve said that our top priority when we get to the Senate is going to be not only passing the PRO Act, but also ending the filibuster,” Lasry said. “Because if we want to be able to pass the agenda that people have voted us into office for, we need to make sure that we can actually pass that agenda, and that starts with ending the filibuster.”
Watch the forum here.