Andy Gronik: Let’s put workers first

My dad dropped out of high school when he was a freshman. He had a very tough childhood after being put up for adoption twice, but he was a hard worker who eventually was able to create his own business and start a family.

Growing up, my dad’s philosophy was simple. He believed, “if you can walk, you can sweep.” So, I grew up sweeping a lot of factory floors in my dad’s small auction business. I’ve always been a hard worker and I’ve never asked anyone to do a job I wasn’t willing to do myself.

After I grew my dad’s business to a national company, I started my own business and grew it to one of the largest of its type in the world. I’ve always recognized the importance of treating my employees like family. Paying people fairly and making sure they had affordable healthcare and other benefits was a priority for me.

Good wages and fair labor practices are not just good for workers — it is smart business and is good for the economy. I had the chance to help guide manufacturing businesses throughout the world, and I have always believed that labor working together with management toward common goals is how everything great has been built.

Listening to workers and considering their input is the key to problem-solving and helps to unleash growth. Organizations that valued the ideas contributed by labor have always been the ones to grow in Wisconsin, making our state the manufacturing center of America. And, as a result, lots of people like my dad, who came from nothing, were able to start and grow businesses so their families could join the middle class.

There is no question that today’s economy has changed a lot. We all understand that — and few people would ever tell a kid today that they have a realistic shot at a good-paying job and secure career if they choose to dropout of high school like my dad did.

But something else has changed in Wisconsin. Instead of having elected leaders who believe that “a rising tide lifts all boats” we have politicians like Governor Scott Walker who believe the only way for someone to win is for someone else to lose.

And we’ve seen time and time again that when it’s up to Scott Walker, special interests and political insiders win and working people lose.

It comes as no surprise to me that Governor Walker’s policies, which favor the wealthy and attack workers’ rights, have contributed to his dismal record in creating good-paying jobs throughout the state, massive income inequality, and a political system that’s broken.

So, I have a message for Scott Walker and the politicians who seek to strip workers of their rights, who refuse to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, and who deny equal pay for equal work: Wisconsinites have had enough!

For the last 19 months, I have crisscrossed this state listening to your concerns about our economy. I have heard these concerns loud and clear. I know, as you do, that Wisconsin can do so much better.

I am running for governor because I believe in Wisconsin and its people. This is, after all, the state where progressives and workers succeeded in implementing the first worker’s compensation protections, the first unemployment compensation law, and the first protections against LGBTQ discrimination in employment. And we were the first state to give public sector unions the right to collectively bargain before Scott Walker dismantled that part of our pro-labor, progressive history with Act 10.

Our unions have an incredible impact — they’ve negotiated safer working conditions, fair working hours, and better wages for all types of laborers across the country. Today, let’s all take a moment to celebrate their progress — and realize that, especially here in Wisconsin, it’s important for us to carry on their legacy and fight for workers’ rights. That’s how we’ll put Wisconsin back together and move forward.

I’ll always stand with Wisconsin workers because that’s how I grew up — and that’s how I ran my businesses, too.

Have a happy and safe Labor Day with your family.

Andy Gronik