The current process for obtaining Social Security
Disability benefits is a nightmare. It desperately needs to be overhauled,
and not through the established bureaucracy of the SSA, but at the
Congressional level. Many people who have disabling conditions are stymied
by the complicated process, and some have to wait years, wading through the
appeals process, to get the benefits they need and deserve.
Even when someone's application is approved within six
months of submission, they have to wait the full six months before their
benefits start - why? Delay makes no sense. Once approved, there should be
The ACA was a good first step, but it
didn’t go far enough. Too many people still lack coverage, and thus lack
care. They make do. They don’t go to the doctor about minor concerns, like
fatigue. And when those minor concerns turn out to be major problems, like
cancer or diabetes, they end up in the ER, and they get financially wiped
out. Or, they declare bankruptcy, and ruin their credit, and the taxpayers
end up footing the bill after the hospital writes off the loss. I’m glad
that the government at least gives us the option of discharging medical
bills in bankruptcy (unlike student loans), but frankly, sick people
shouldn’t need that option - or that worry.
At the very least, basic
preventive care should be covered for everyone. We are the only first-world
country that doesn’t have that provided. Too many people with serious
diseases, like cancer, fall through the cracks, because the insurance
companies don’t want to have to pay to test and treat them.
The cracks in the system are expanding,
and we cannot let that continue. It's actually cheaper for taxpayers to fund
preventive care at a basic level, than for people to only get care when they
reach the crisis stage. They go to the ER, they can't pay, the hospital
writes it off, and taxpayers fund that. Fund basic preventive care and we
can pay less in the way of tax dollars, as well as having a healthier
populace. That's just common sense.
For those who ask where the
Constitution provides for access to health care, I would point to the
Preamble, where it says government should, among other things, "provide for
the common defense, [and] promote the general Welfare" Having a healthy
population is a smart defensive move, and providing health care is the basis
of promoting the general welfare.
The idea behind the Exchange was that if
people could directly compare plans, picking and choosing among a variety of
options to obtain the best option for them, it would lower costs. That
didn't happen, because insurers weren't required to participate, and could
choose for themselves which plans to make available as Exchange options.
Some insurers, like WPS in Wisconsin, created an Exchange subsidiary, to put
only certain limited plans into the marketplace. If insurers were required
to participate, and required to put every single plan they offer on the
Exchange, the Exchange would be a more robust marketplace and the ACA's
original goal in its creation would be better accomplished.
Amy used to be in favor of
adopting Medicare For All - until she qualified for Medicare herself. Now,
she no longer believes that it’s the best this country can do. The plans are
too complicated, and with “Medicare Advantage” plans, the government has let
private insurers take over the handling of claims for a very large segment
of the Medicare population to an alarming degree.
Amy is tired of half measures;
aren’t you? Healthcare needs to be fixed NOW. We need to figure out how best
to deliver universal healthcare without complications to the largest segment
of the American population as possible, and do that without the innumerable
tests and short-steps that don’t go far enough that have cluttered the
progress in healthcare legislation to date.
January 21, 2020
Citizen Action of Wisconsin -
Affordable Healthcare for All Event
Agriculture is our country’s largest industry, bar none, and Wisconsin takes pride in being a predominantly agricultural state. Yet, somehow, none of the current Wisconsin Congressional delegation serves on the House Ag Committee. If you look at the Ag Committee’s website, the first piece of legislation currently listed is H.R. 3062, The Dairy Security Act of 2011. Dairy security is extremely important to Wisconsin farmers. The website states that the Bill would “establish a program for dairy producers under which producers can offset reductions in producer income when the margin between milk prices and feed costs is less than a specified amount, [and] to establish a dairy market stabilization program….” Well, that sounds like it might be important for Wisconsin, but none of Wisconsin’s House members are pushing for it, and that bill has been stalled for nearly a decade. It can’t help Wisconsin farmers if it never gets out of Committee. I want to serve on the House Ag Committee, to help to push through bills, like this one, that will help Wisconsin farmers.
Wisconsin farmers need help. Wisconsin is losing two dairy farms/day – 10% of its dairy farms in just the past year. Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture thinks dairy farmers should go big, or get out of farming based on “economies of scale.”(1) The Sixth District’s current Representative, Glenn Grothman, thinks “there’s room for the 100, 200, 300 cow dairy farmer” if they’re efficient,(2) but apparently no room for farms with smaller herds, like that of Darin Von Ruden, a third-generation dairy farmer with a 50-cow farm.(3) Farming is a hard life, but a necessary business. Government should be helping farmers, not making it worse.
(1) Barrett, R. and Bergquist, L., “Industrial
dairy farming is taking over in Wisconsin, crowding out family operations
and raising environmental concerns,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/15/20,
available online here.
(2) Fannon, E., “Republicans ‘disappointed’ by AG
Secretary Purdue’s comments about small dairy farms,” WKOW ABC 27, 10/3/10,
available online here.
(3) Richmond, T., “Trump farm secretary: No
guarantee small dairy farms will survive,” Wisconsin State Journal, 10/2/19,
available online here.
Not one medical school in this country requires
students to take and pass a course on even basic nutrition. Pardon the
inevitable pun here, but nutrition feeds into the health of every other
system in the human body. Doctors should have an excellent grasp on the
complexities of nutrition, but most actually rely on nutritionists, who, in
many areas, are only required to have a certification (as opposed to
registered dieticians (“RDs”), who have degrees and are tested by the
states). In fact, “people use the term ‘nutritionist’ so loosely that it can
indicate anything...[including] the completion of short-term continuing
education courses….” That’s a quote from a website on how to become a
As a diabetic, a person who took a seminar at the
Holiday Inn last week is not who I want making recommendations about my
health. Now, I have no intention of impugning the education or skill of any
RD, but most patients don’t know whether they’re seeing a nutritionist or an
RD, and many clinics don’t go the extra mile to hire an actual RD.
We need to set educational requirements about
nutrition for medical professionals – doctors, nurses, and nutritionists -
that actually make some sense.
Trump’s Secretary of Agricultural thought dairy
farmers should go big, or get out of farming. Glenn Grothman agreed, saying
that a dairy farm should have a minimum of 100 cows to have a shot.
Apparently, Grothman doesn’t realize - most of the farms in the Sixth
District have fewer than 50 cows. What about them?
Wisconsin takes pride in being primarily an
agricultural state. Wisconsin's farms and agricultural businesses generate
$104.8 billion in economic activity and 437,700 jobs per year. Yet, not one
of Wisconsin’s House delegation sits on the House Agriculture Committee.
Farming is a hard life, but a necessary business. Government should be
helping farmers, not making it worse.
Student loans are a problem. The
current crop of high school graduates are about to take on a crushing load
of debt that they may never be able to pay back, through no fault of their
own. Recent graduates aren’t the only ones concerned with student loan debt.
I’m 51. I borrowed around $75K for undergrad and law school combined. I
graduated from law school in 1994. My current balance is just over $157K.
I’m not alone. Ms. Johnson’s tweet and the comments below it are
When I left grad school in 2008, I owed $70k in federal student loans. (A poor choice I wouldn’t make again.) For the past 11 years, I’ve been making payments (except for a period of under employment), totaling about $60,000 in payments. Guess how much I still owe.
School tuition has increased
substantially since 1958, when student loans became a standard part of
college financial aid, 1965, when the government got in the business of
subsidizing student loans, and 1976, when they made them non-dischargeable
in bankruptcy. In January of 1976, the average mortgage interest rate in the
US was 9.02% and student loan interest, at 3.27%, was a deal. I bought a
house in 2018, and my interest rate is 4.75% - but my student loan interest
rate is 8.5%.
Rep. Grothman recently introduced a bill, H.R. 5899, to make student loans
dischargeable in bankruptcy. But that means that our kids – and our current
population of adults already working on paying back student loans – would
have to voluntarily destroy their credit rating for a minimum of seven years
in order to get out from under a problem that the government caused.
Bankruptcy isn’t a fair solution (although I grant you, it’s better than
none at all).
Elizabeth Warren has introduced legislation regarding debt forgiveness, and
promises to forgive student debt without Congress on day one of her
presidency, if elected. Bernie Sanders has also introduced legislation
regarding student loan forgiveness. Joe Biden has a plan to reduce student
debt and forgive it after 20 years of payments.
If solving the student loan debt crisis without forcing people to destroy
their credit rating is an issue of importance to Wisconsin voters, it should
be of importance to Wisconsin’s representatives. If you send me to Congress,
it will be.
Public school teachers are underpaid and undervalued. My
mom was a public school teacher for 37 years. Despite having the Michigan
state “model classroom” for, I believe, at least 20 of those 37 years, she
never made more than $37,000 per year from teaching. She always had a second
part-time job in the evening, and a third job over the summer. But that’s
Michigan. That’s where I grew up, but it’s not where I am now. So, let’s
talk about Wisconsin.
When Governor Walker was first elected here in 2010, there was a lot of talk
about teacher salaries in Wisconsin being “too high.” At that time, the
average Wisconsin teacher made around $80,000 per year, including benefits.
You may think that's a lot - even, too much. Okay. You're entitled to your
Follow along here. So, let's not pay teachers a high annual salary. Let's
make them hourly employees! And, they don't really do all that much, right?
They're really just overpriced babysitters, or so I've heard some grumble.
Okay, so, let's pay them an hourly rate for babysitting of $3.00 per hour
per child. And we're only going to pay them for the time they actually
teach, not planning, lunch, breaks, etc. They have to be actively
babysitting to get paid! And, we're not going to pay them for any vacations
- they only babysit 180 days per year, we're only going to pay them for
those days! Okay, let's do the math. Got your calculators ready? Here goes:
$3 x 30 kids x 6.5 hours/day x 180 days = $105,300
Great - we just gave teachers a raise of $25,300 per year! And that's
Point being: teachers don't even get paid the going rate for babysitting,
despite having high levels of education, training, and experience, and
despite the fact that they actually do a lot more than just babysit our
By the way, you should realize that that $80K figure is NOT their gross pay;
it includes benefits, some of which they won't see for decades after they
start teaching, because it includes their pension.
Most Wisconsin teachers have a gross annual pay of about $45K per year, and
after taxes, their actual take home pay is even less. And that’s the 2010
number, before Governor Walker lowered property taxes and education funding,
and, by extension, teacher pay. Membership in the Wisconsin Education
Association Council, the state’s main teachers union, fell under Walker,
from 98,000 to 40,000. We lost good teachers, teachers our students needed.
So, Michigan, Wisconsin, nationwide, really - we don’t pay teachers enough.
Why not? Well, teacher pay traditionally has been a local issue, usually
paid for by local property tax millages, and people don’t like paying taxes,
and in many areas, private school vouchers pull money out of the public
school system. So, teachers get shortchanged.
The federal government should set minimum standard requirements for teacher
compensation, and provide subsidies in areas where the property taxes cannot
reach the federal standard, so that teachers get a guaranteed minimum salary
that allows them to live without second and third jobs. That will increase
the number of people who are interested in actually becoming teachers,
instead of going into other professions where they know they can make more
Now, it just happens that the relevant committee in the House covers both
Education and Labor. Wisconsin does have a House member on that Committee –
the Sixth District’s own Glenn Grothman, who has sponsored no legislation
that is pending in, or that was passed through, that committee – according
to his own website.
If education, teacher quality and teacher compensation are issues of
importance to Wisconsin voters, they should be issues of importance to
Wisconsin’s representatives. If you send me to Congress, they will be.
Driving on roads in need of repair
costs each Wisconsin driver $637 per year.
157 Wisconsin dams have high-hazard
To meet the state’s currently unmet
drinking water needs would cost approximately $1B.
Meeting currently unmet wastewater
disposal needs would cost upward of $6B.
Our schools have a current
estimated gap between available funds and needed expenditures of $836M.
8.7% of Wisconsin’s 14,275 bridges
are rated structurally deficient, up from 7.3% in 2014. In fact, since
Glenn Grothman first went to DC, the number of structurally deficient
bridges in Wisconsin has risen dramatically, from 1,043 in 2014, to
1,241 in 2019.
Rep. Grothman has
sponsored a total of 16 bills in the House; none of them
have sought to repair Wisconsin’s crumbling infrastructure. "Infrastructure
has become a running joke in the Trump Administration. Deteriorating
infrastructure harms Wisconsin’s ability to compete in an increasingly
global marketplace. Wisconsin’s farmers are already in financial trouble; if
they are also unable to get their goods to markets due to crumbling, aging,
inadequate infrastructure, that could spell disaster. Delaying needed
infrastructure investments only increases the cost and risks of our aging
system. That’s not an option; deteriorating infrastructure harms Wisconsin’s
ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace.
emphatically are issues of importance to Wisconsin voters, and they should
be issues of importance to Wisconsin’s representatives. If you send me to
Congress, they will be.
I don’t talk about it much,
but I am both a rape survivor, and a survivor of entirely separate gender
discrimination and wrongful termination in the workplace. The laws
surrounding each offense are antiquated, and often unfairly work against the
I did not report my rape. I knew the rapist, had been in a relationship with
him previously. I had invited him into my apartment, in which he had
formerly been a resident, for the purpose of picking up some things he’d
left behind. I won’t get into the details of how it occurred, exactly;
suffice it to say, I said no, multiple times, and he didn’t stop. I tried to
push him off, and he didn’t stop. I couldn’t budge him, so I endured. That
didn’t make it right. He didn’t hurt me, physically. That didn’t make it
right, either. He didn’t see it as rape. I did. I do. I explained to him why
I did. He apologized “if I hurt you.” Well, yes, being raped hurts. I would
not have been explaining it to him, if it hadn’t. I wouldn’t have taken the
time – we were done with each other.
Neither of us had been drinking, nor were we otherwise impaired in judgment.
I had no bruises, there was no physical altercation, apart from the
penetration itself. It was my word against his, and I was leaving for
another state the next day, unlikely ever to see him again. Can you see why
I didn’t bother to report it? What would have been the point?
This took place long before the #MeToo movement. I’m an attorney, and while
I don’t practice criminal law, I did do an externship with the public
defender’s office when I was in law school. I know the nationwide
statistics: it’s estimated that for every 1,000 rapes, 384 are reported to
police, 57 result in an arrest, 11 are referred for prosecution, 7 result in
a felony conviction, and just 6 result in incarceration. Of those 6, I
guarantee you, all 6 involved violence. I would have gotten about as far as
Christine Blasey Ford.
And that’s how a lot of rape victims feel, and that’s why only just slightly
more than one third of all rapes get reported. Victims don’t take reporting
seriously, because when we report, we aren’t taken seriously, and most
times, nothing happens.
Due process for defendants is necessary, and should be inviolate, don’t get
me wrong – I’m a big fan of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. But when the
procedures that have been built up to “protect due process” in fact run
roughshod over victims, it’s time for a review.
Only 0.5% of rape cases
result in arrest. That’s not due process for defendants. That’s bending
over backward for them.
I’m an attorney. I’m not currently practicing
because I recently beat stage four cancer, and now I’m running for Congress.
But for almost 10 years, I worked on a single mulitidistrict class action
lawsuit. I wasn't the only person working on it, but I was the only person
at my old firm who didn't work on anything else. The firm represents the
Wisconsin (3 other states also involved) plaintiffs, commercial and
industrial end users of natural gas (residential users paid regulated rates)
in a class action seeking refunds from 10 large energy conglomerates who
conspired with each other, and others (including Enron), to illegally
increase the price of deregulated natural gas in Jan. 2000 - Oct. 2002.
Government agencies investigated, the defendants paid fines and penalties,
and people went to jail, but to get the money back to the end users required
civil litigation, and that's where we came in.
The 10 years I spent on the case were all pre-trial, and a trial date still
has yet to be set - yet there were several appeals, including 2 to SCOTUS*,
and 7 to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs won each appeal; in
fact, on my last full day at the firm, we got 2 decisions from the 9th Cir.
in our clients' favor.
In 2017, we settled on behalf of the class with 4 of the defendant
companies, & brought $23.5M back into the Wisconsin economy. The entities
who received a check included the Milwaukee Public Schools, and a convent in
I am proud of the work that I, and others at my old firm, did (and that is
still being done now, without me) to get repayment to the Wisconsin end
users of natural gas who overpaid so drastically. It can take a very long
time to get anything in the way of a win in a financial sense from such
cases. My old firm paid salaries and ate expense costs on the natural gas
case for over a decade, before obtaining any sort of financial return. It
continues to do so, even now.
Earlier in my career, I worked on two cases against a motor carrier. The
first involved its workers' compensation (WC) insurance fraud; the second
involved a variety of other frauds that the carrier conducted in order to
keep owner-operator truck drivers in a condition of peonage, a form of
indentured servitude prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment. The carrier is
no longer in business; it went under shortly after our second case was
The carrier was authorized by the State of
Oklahoma to self-insure WC claims for its own employees, but what it did was
to charge the drivers (but not its office or warehouse workers) for WC
coverage. We were able to document that the carrier had had several thousand
drivers over the previous ten years
(the statute of limitations period), each of whom it had charged hundreds of
dollars per year for WC coverage.
There was a question under Oklahoma law about whether owner-operator truck
drivers could be considered “employees”, or were “independent contractors.”
In our complaint, we pointed out that if the drivers were employees, it was
a Schedule G felony under Oklahoma law to charge them for WC coverage, but
if they were independent contractors, then the company had no authority to
even cover them, much less charge them. Either way, each driver was owed a
After the first case was filed, it was brought to our attention by several
current & former drivers (and others) that the WC scam was the merest
fraction of what the carrier was doing.
The most frequent concerns were raised in the context of the carrier’s
“rent-to-own a truck” program. The carrier preyed on drivers with credit
problems and/or insufficient funds to make a down payment sufficient to buy
their own truck. The program was billed as a way for these drivers to become
their own boss. They would rent a truck from the carrier’s fleet, and after
the lease period, make a balloon payment. They would drive for the carrier,
and the rent payments would be deducted from their earnings.
The carrier promised to pay the drivers’ way down to Oklahoma City and their
expenses during the orientation for the program. At the end of the
orientation, if it felt like a good fit, they could decide how long of a
lease period they wanted (1-3 years; longer lease = smaller monthly
payment), sign the papers, and go immediately out on their first “run” for
the carrier to start making money. The orientation lasted several weeks,
during which the drivers were put up at a motel and their meals were
covered, but they received no other pay, so they had no way to send money
home to their families. The carrier paid their way to Oklahoma City, but if
they wanted to leave, they were on their own to get home. At the end of
orientation, late in the day on a Friday, the drivers were given their
paperwork, told to look it over, sign it, and be back in the morning, ready
There were two sets of papers. One was the truck rental agreement. The other
was a federally-regulated contract in which the driver agreed to lease the
truck and his driving services to the carrier in exchange for compensation
and the ability to use the carrier’s federally-granted authority to move
freight in interstate commerce.
Under the terms of the truck rental agreement, if the driver stopped driving
for the carrier for any reason during the lease period, the driver forfeited
all rights to the truck, but remained liable for all remaining lease
payments, and that debt was accelerated and due immediately. To enforce such
debts, the carrier filed liens on drivers’ homes, property, other vehicles,
etc. The drivers couldn’t quit. If they did, they lost not just the truck,
but everything, through legal process, which made the forced employment
But the carrier made it impossible for them to want to continue to work for
the company. Why? Because the carrier knew something the drivers didn’t: the
carrier couldn’t sell them the trucks at the end of the lease period,
because it didn’t own them. It was leasing the trucks from a dealership in
Tulsa, so the carrier couldn’t sell the trucks. Thus, the carrier couldn’t
allow the drivers to get to the point where they could make a balloon
payment to buy the vehicles.
So, the carrier engaged in a number of other illegal schemes to deflate
driver earnings, including simply skimming from the drivers’ compensation,
in an attempt to get the drivers to quit, so it could repossess the trucks
from the drivers. The carrier always had several different drivers on the
hook for the same truck at the same time. If Driver 1 quit, they’d repossess
the truck and assign it to Driver 2, while still collecting from Driver 1,
and so on.
Over the years since, some have asked me how the way the debt was structured
differed from a mortgage on a home loan. One typically doesn’t work at the
bank where one gets their mortgage. But let’s say someone, Mr. A, did – Mr.
A is a teller at Bank B. Bank B has a good deal on mortgage interest rates,
so Mr. A buys a house, with a 30-year mortgage from Bank B, and then 3 years
later, Mr. A is offered a job as head teller for Bank C, so he quits working
for Bank B and goes to work at Bank C. He misses no payments. Does Bank B
foreclose on the home, simply because Mr. A no longer works for Bank B? Of
course not. And even when a bank does foreclose, does the former homeowner
still owe all the remaining mortgage payments, accelerated to be due
immediately? No. The home is sold, and there might be some remaining debt,
called a deficiency, but those are usually worked out, or discharged in
After we filed the second case, but before we could certify the class, the
carrier declared bankruptcy and ceased operations. The bankruptcy trustee
settled with the named plaintiffs. Even they got less than they had lost;
the unnamed class members received nothing. But I had hundreds of calls and
letters from drivers who had been harmed by the company, thanking me for
making sure that the company couldn’t hurt anyone else.This is why I believe so strongly in class action litigation’s power to do
Some Republicans have suggested that class action litigation
should be killed, or so severely limited as to effectively end all such
work. But it's already difficult to bring and maintain such cases, and I
have seen first hand how effective such cases can be to keep large
corporations in line. This is why I want intelligent reform of the class
action rules, to make the cases easier – not harder – to bring and navigate
for plaintiffs; with reasonable due process for defendants, but without the
endless costly motions to be briefed and argued at the pre-trial stage.
defendants in the natural gas case brought well over 50 "dispositive"
motions, each of which had to be fully briefed and argued, and each of which
our case survived, but which easily could have been combined. The page
limits and other rules that necessitated and allowed so many motions could
easily be changed. Better court enforcement of calendars and deadlines is
needed, and that should be addressed.
* If anyone is interested, the SCOTUS decision
can be found
here (I'm mentioned in the last group of attorneys.)
There's an old saying that "if
you save a life, you are responsible for it." Apparently, the anti-abortion
forces don't live by it; that is, if their general take on responsibility
for taking care of society's children is any indication.
As you know if you’ve followed
me on Twitter, or read my other articles here on my website, I've already
written about both the low rate of rape conviction, and my beliefs on
abortion, assisted suicide, and the death penalty. Basically, if you don’t
want an abortion, don't have one. Simple. But, if you prohibit them, then
you shouldn’t complain when you're taxed and your tax dollars go to paying
for services so the child you "saved" grows up safe, healthy, and educated.
Oh, that's not what you
wanted? Then why did you bother? You wanted a child to suffer? Or did you
want a woman who had no other choice, after you took abortion away, to die?
Be aware that around 50,000 US women per year die in childbirth - and for
each one of those 50,000,
70 more come close. Moreover, black women, specifically,
three times more likely to die from complications after birth
than anyone else.
You certainly didn't want the
father to have to pay child support and medical bills, right? No, you
probably just wanted the woman to have to give birth to a child she didn't
want, especially if it's a child of rape, as around 32,000 pregnancies per
year are. The pregnancy rate for rape in the US is around 5%, but the
effects can last a lifetime. The conviction rate for rape is around 6%, and
generally the sentences aren’t terribly prohibitive, only 1 in 6 convictions
actually resulting in jail time. Clearly, we'd much rather there be
consequences for the woman than for the rapist male.
this article (published in May, but which only caught my eye this
morning), which noted that, despite Roe v. Wade, Wisconsin still has a
170-yr-old law on the books criminalizing abortion.
federal law - the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act - passed in
2016, that gives up to four separate grants to each state that has or passes
a law letting a rapist's parental rights be severed. Only two states have
used it to pass new laws. It's kind of like seatbelts - except that
all but 1 state (NH) & 1 territory (American Samoa) took advantage of
those federally-provided grants; all the rest now have
laws requiring adult seatbelt use in vehicles.
Now, I'm running for Congress,
which is federal, so I can't do much about state laws. But what I can do is
try to toughen up that federal law, to give, not just a carrot to states
that allow severance, but a stick aimed at those that don't.
If the various miscarriages
(pardon the pun) of justice outlined in this article outrage you, as they do
me, please, help. If you can afford it, please click on DONATE in the menu
above to give money to my campaign - if you can't afford it, retweeting on
Twitter or volunteering to help my campaign are both great ways to help.
Either way, I appreciate all you do to help me flip WI-06 blue. Thank you
for your support.
I don’t talk about it much, but I am both a rape
survivor, and a survivor of entirely separate gender discrimination and
wrongful termination in the workplace. The laws surrounding each offense are
antiquated, and often unfairly work against the victims. I did not report my
I did report the gender discrimination and wrongful termination. I
worked for a firm that failed to promote me, despite having earlier promoted
two lesser-qualified men; my boss told me that I could not be similarly
promoted because of my gender (“It’s too bad you’re female; we can’t promote
you because all you women are so damned catty”). Eventually, after I
complained, I was terminated.
Now, termination can be for a stated reason,
or for no reason, but it cannot be for a wrongful reason, i.e., for having
complained about gender discrimination. The reason given by the employer for
my termination at the time was that the firm was undergoing a “financial
crisis” due to the departure of the one partner, I was the highest paid
employee after the two remaining partners, and if they continued to pay me,
they would not be able to meet their payroll obligations to their other
employees. When, in discovery, that claim turned out to be untrue, they then
claimed that I had somehow committed legal malpractice in a case where, in
fact, no mistakes were made, I had signed no documents, and I had made no
appearances. The firm never gave a valid reason for my termination.
The federal EEOC gave me a ‘right to sue’ letter, but because the company
had fewer employees than the number required for it to be a federal case, I
had to go through state proceedings, which meant going in front of an
untrained Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from the Wisconsin Department of
Workforce Development. He dismissed my case, finding there was no probable
cause to believe that my rights had been infringed. I appealed to the
state’s Labor and Industry Review Commission, which simply rubber-stamped
the ALJ’s decision. That took about a year, and no hearing was ever held.
appealed again, to the county circuit court. The judge found that there had
been “significant discovery abuses” by the firm, but refused to sanction the
firm for them; he wrote that while my story was “compelling,” and there were
no grounds for finding that I had committed malpractice, there was
“evidence” (though he did not point to anything specific) supporting the ALJ’s determination. That took about another year and a half, and again,
there was no hearing or oral argument.
I was terminated in 2007; the circuit court’s decision was rendered in 2012.
It came down the same week that I was in the hospital. I could have appealed
again – I had grounds – but I was tired, worn down, and sick. And all of the
first five years that this case had been going forward was at the “probable
cause” stage – similar to an indictment in a criminal case. Even if I had won
an appeal, I would still have had to go back before the same ALJ and prove
my case all over again in a “merits stage” proceeding. I couldn’t do it
anymore. I gave up. I let it go. And that’s exactly what the process is
designed to do – make people just give up.
Now, those are state proceedings, built up in a state-level executive
bureaucracy. As a member of Congress, I wouldn’t be able to do anything
about them (though I do believe changes should be made, and I encourage the
members of the Wisconsin legislature to look into it). But remember, I had
been issued a ‘right to sue’ letter by the EEOC – meaning that if it had
been possible for me to go forward at the federal level, I had already
passed the “probable cause determination” stage, and could have gone
directly to federal court on the merits.
So, what I could, and would like to, address as a member of Congress is a
lowering of the number of employees that a firm must have before a federal
court has jurisdiction over a case like mine. It’s important for small
businesses to have procedures in place to protect their interests, sure. But
it’s not necessary to protect them to the point where someone cannot
possibly be successful in bringing a case against them, simply because the
number of employees is too low for federal agencies and courts to be
In 2018, I was let go from my job when I was diagnosed with cancer. Many
have said "how could that be legal? why didn't the FMLA protect you?" The
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that a company have a minimum of 50
employees before it applies to that company - the firm where I worked had
only 35 or so.
But there's no reason for the FMLA to require that minimum number of
employees. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires only 15
employees before it applies to a company. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
requires that a company have just 1 employee before it applies.
The average person doesn't know about these minimums - until their rights
are violated by their employer, and they suddenly find out there's nothing
they can do about it. Federal law should be consistent. The FLSA's minimum
number of employees should be the number for all employment laws - just 1
In 2019, Alabama enacted one of the strictest
abortion laws in the country — banning the procedure at 6 weeks and
including no exception for rape or incest. Gov. Kay Ivey characterized the
legislation as “a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that
every life is precious.”
Alabama is the only state in the nation where a jury does not have to be
unanimous to impose the death penalty. On March 7, the state executed
Nathaniel Woods, a black man on death row for being an accomplice to the
shooting of three police officers in 2004. Despite a confession from his
co-defendant, who testified that Woods did not pull the trigger, and the
pleas of one of the officers’ sisters to halt his execution, Ivey refused to
step in and allowed the state to execute an innocent man. Apparently, when
Ivey said "every life is precious" she was only referring to fetuses.
The hypocrisy of the GOP’s “pro-life” ideology is abhorrent. It always
amazes me how the party that claims to be “anti-government overreach” wants
government to vastly overreach in the most fundamental of ways when it comes
to abortion, assisted suicide, and the death penalty. If you don’t want the
government to ask you to stay at home during a pandemic because it’s
tyrannical government behavior, then why would you want government telling
you or your family members when you can or cannot have a baby?
My position is entirely consistent across all three issues: I simply believe
that government should not be involved in life-or-death decisions – at
either end of the person’s life. That includes assisted suicide. If a
terminal patient wants to end their life with dignity and with minimal or no
pain, that should be their choice – not the government’s.
Personally, I am anti-death penalty in every case. There is no moral
justification for it that does not result in society being at least as much
to blame as the criminal it's prosecuting. If Person A is wrong to have
killed Person B, then the government is just as wrong to kill Person A.
Society has a right to protect itself, but it can do that (more cheaply, as
it turns out, and, studies show, with greater deterrent effect) by locking
Person A away.
As for abortion, I feel that it should be up to the woman and her doctor
without interference from a society that clearly doesn't care enough about
the fetus to be willing to support the child. No one is in favor of “killing
babies.” I am, however, in favor of allowing women to have bodily autonomy,
again, without influence from the government. The power to say that a woman
cannot have an abortion is the same power to say, in other circumstances,
that a woman must have an abortion – as they do in China, with their
one-child policy for population control.
Don’t come screaming at me about so-called “late-term” abortions, either –
they don’t exist. The only time an abortion is performed after viability
(the point at which the fetus can survive outside the womb, usually 7-8
months into the pregnancy) is when the fetus is already dead or dying, and
the mother’s health is at risk because of it. That’s what happened in
Ireland that caused them recently to change their abortion laws to favor
abortion to protect the mother – a pregnant woman died when the doctors
determined that the fetus was dead and its rotting corpse was poisoning her,
but they would not have been safe from prosecution under the law at the time
if they had removed it from her body.
Being a uterine cancer survivor, having a child is no longer a possibility
for me. I was never so blessed. If I had been, I would have moved Heaven and
earth to keep it. But I recognize that that is my choice, and that I have no
right to impose my choice on anyone else.
Don't want an abortion? Don't have one. But don't rail against those who
make that choice unless you're willing to support the child through your
taxes paying for pre-natal check-ups, ultrasounds and vitamins; free
delivery for low-income mothers; affordable health care; daycare programs;
WIC, free lunch, and Headstart programs; and good, safe public schools.
Otherwise, you’re not “pro-life.” You’re just “pro-fetus.” What’s the point
of outlawing abortion if you’re going to turn around and damn the child to a
lifetime of suffering?
Abortion is legal, and should stay that way. Assisted suicide should be more
widely available to those who want it to end their suffering. The death
penalty shouldn’t exist.
Those are my positions. Kindly
do not misrepresent them. Thank you.