Iron County Progressive

Weekly News from Your Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair

Today is Juneteenth. It's a celebration marking the day in 1865 that the news of the civil war's end reached the last group of enslaved Americans, in Galveston, Texas—two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

It's a celebration of liberation through struggle. And it's a reminder that even the most hard-fought victories—especially for equal rights for Black Americans—don't result in instant change on the ground, and that the work of pursuing a more perfect union is the labor of a lifetime.

Wisconsin is no stranger to justice deferred. 

In 1849, a majority of Wisconsin  voters supported a referendum for Black male suffrage—but an even larger number of voters abstained, and the state Board of Canvassers wrongfully declared the abstentions to count as "no" votes. For 17 subsequent years, as Professor Christy Clark-Pujara has documented, Black Wisconsinites were denied the ballot. Debate raged, and white voters rejected extending suffrage in two more referenda. Finally, in 1866, Wisconsin's Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ezekiel Gillespie, a Black Wisconsinite who had attempted to vote—and affirmed that the referendum 17 years prior had, in fact, passed.

Those years of struggle, protest, organizing, and litigation ground us in the work to come today, as we recommit ourselves, across race, to correcting the systemic injustices and that make Wisconsin one of the hardest states in the country for Black people to live.

This year, for the first time, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is joining the growing ranks of organizations and companies that are taking Juneteenth as a holiday, and sharing this list of Black Live Matter events in our state—including a slew of Juneteenth celebrations.

Each year, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas introduces a House resolution to recognize the observance of Juneteenth—co-sponsored by all three of Wisconsin's Democratic members of Congress, Reps. Moore, Kind, and Pocan, but none of the Republicans. And this year, Rep. Jackson-Lee plans to go a step further and propose making Juneteenth a national holiday. If you want to weigh in on that conversation, the Congressional hotline is 202-224-3121.

Today, let's celebrate. And, because #BlackLivesMatter, let's keep stepping up the fight for liberty and justice for all.


FIGHT on the Issues & FIGHT to Win

Coronavirus: Protecting Our Communities & Staying Safe

Thanks to Governor Evers's leadership, Wisconsin has made enormous progress in controlling the coronavirus pandemic—even while other states that prematurely reopened are struggling with exploding infection rates.

DPW is committed to doing our part to keep our state safe. We are in regular touch with experts and health officials to benefit from the most up-to-date guidance. Accordingly, we have committed to keeping our offices closed statewide until at least July 13. During this time, we'll continue our vital work virtually. An emerging body of evidence also strongly supports wearing masks, so if you're attending outdoor events, please bring your mask and sanitizer with you.

The first-ever virtual state convention

Our very first virtual Democratic State Convention was last Friday and went off with resounding success. Democrats from across the state celebrated our party’s accomplishments and looked forward to our successes in the coming months. Party members showed a true sense of unity, coming together to meet in this moment and rally, and touching on the fight for justice across the country, sparked by the murder of George Floyd. The stakes of our work have never been greater, but our ability to meet the challenge of our time has never been stronger.

Wisconsin will decide the course of human history this year, and as our presumptive nominee, Vice President Joe Biden said on Friday, “We have to work harder than we ever have. We have to stand up as a nation... come together as one America, to deliver justice for all Americans… The very soul of America is at stake.”

Victory for DREAMers: DACA decision

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision protecting DREAMers from deportation by the Trump administration is a victory for the more than 6,000 Wisconsinites who are protected by DACA and all of us who cherish them as our fellow citizens. These DREAMers are our neighbors who have made countless contributions to our community and continue to inspire us with their strength and commitment to making Wisconsin a better place to live. We’re grateful for the thousands of DREAMers and Black and brown activists who have organized and fought for equity and justice for immigrants across the country. We celebrate today’s victory, but there is no doubt that Trump will continue his xenophobic and racist attacks against our immigrant communities. The work of creating pathways to citizenship and protecting undocumented families continues this November. DACA will be on the ballot again, and it falls upon all of us to vote for Joe Biden and Democrats who will whole-heartedly protect our fellow Americans.

GOP threatens voting rights; Democrats champion them

DPW and its partners are continuing to fight to expand voting rights and ensure a free and fair election in November. Unfortunately, instead of coming up with solutions in a time of unrest and uncertainty, Republicans are trying to make it a felony to assist voters in returning absentee ballots. GOP legislators also tried to stop the Elections Commission from mailing absentee ballot requests. Make no mistake -- Republicans will do anything to make it hard for Wisconsinites to exercise their right to vote.

Meanwhile, Democrats and our partners in the community are fighting in court to hire more poll workers, send out absentee ballots, and institute a host of other changes to hold a fair election in November. Last week, Milwaukee's Common Council approved a plan for early voting locations, doubling the number from 8 to 16; an important step toward improving the infrastructure of democracy in Wisconsin. Republicans clearly think that their only chance to win the election is to ruthlessly suppress the vote. DPW believes that the right to vote is one of the most sacred tenets of our democracy and will continue to fight to make sure that our neighbors can exercise that right in November.

An economy that works for everyone

Chair Ben Wikler interviewed Sen. Tammy Baldwin this week about the Supreme Court decision barring discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers, the inspiring protests across the country sparked by the murder of George Floyd, and the state of Wisconsin’s economy under Trump. Sen. Baldwin is doing vital work in the Senate to ensure that our government supports the hard working Wisconsinites that have been left behind by this administration, and that it doesn’t just favor the wealthy corporations that have Trump in their pocket.


Wisconsin Pride and a Supreme Court victory

This week, in a landmark 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that employers in the United States cannot discriminate against LGBTQ+ employees. This decision is a step forward for LGBTQ+ equality in America, as we march toward a more just society for LGBTQ+ Americans in all aspects, from housing to health care.

We have a lot more work to do, but this is certainly a moment to celebrate. No one should have to fear being fired because of who they are, and here in Wisconsin, we recognize that our diversity makes us stronger, which is why we were 7 years ahead of any other state when in 1982, we passed laws making it illegal to discriminate based on sexuality in matters of employment and housing. 40 years later, the Supreme Court has finally made that the law of the country. This is why we lead with our values and fight for justice.

Raising the Juneteenth flag over the capitol

Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes announced this week that for the first time in Wisconsin’s history, the Juneteenth Flag will fly over the State Capitol building. Milwaukee City Hall will also be flying the Juneteenth Flag for the first time in history, and are pushing to recognize the day as a federal holiday.

The flag is an important recognition of the atrocities of the United States’ past -- including the original sin of slavery, the institutional oppression that exists today, and a reminder of the hope this moment in history presents. As the flag ascends over the East Wing of the State Capitol, we must commit to moving beyond symbolic gestures and creating change that fulfills the promise of our nation’s founding and promotes justice as the centerpiece of our ideals.

Reflect on our shared history and join some of the Juneteenth events happening around Wisconsin HERE.

#BlackLivesMatter: health care justice now

In Madison, White Coats for Black Lives and community groups like Urban Triage and Freedom Inc did incredible organizing, marching from the Capitol last week to demand that the disparities in health between white and Black Wisconsinites be addressed. Wisconsin’s Chief Medical Officer, Ryan Westergaard, also spoke out about the public health crisis of racism. Here in Wisconsin, Black babies are more likely to die before the age of one than in any other state in the country. This is a disgrace. Protestors made it clear that systemic racism in our society touches every aspect of Black lives, starting from birth and every other interaction with a racist health care system after that. We will not achieve intersectional justice in our state until these fatal inequities are meaningfully addressed.

Trump Gives Up On A Crisis He Made Worse
Trump’s failed response made this crisis worse than it needed to be. Instead of doing more to mitigate coronavirus, Trump has completely moved on even as infections spike and his administration is still failing to distribute aid or address supply shortages.
The economy officially entered a recession in February, and Trump doesn’t have a coherent plan to get it on track. 
New York Times: “The United States economy officially entered a recession in February 2020, the committee that calls downturns announced on Monday, bringing the longest expansion on record to an end as the coronavirus pandemic caused economic activity to slow sharply.”
Washington Post’s Rampell: “Worse, this administration seems to have no functional plan for expediting the recovery. So far the White House brain trust’s best ideas include (you guessed it) more tax cuts, especially capital gains tax cuts that will help the rich, hobble future presidents’ budget plans and do nothing to stimulate the economy today.That’s what they’re calling for in front of TV cameras. Behind the scenes, they’re trying to pollute the country’s way to prosperity.
While Trump has moved on from the crisis, the nation’s death toll has now exceeded even his worst estimates.
CNN’s Daniel Dale: “The US coronavirus death toll has now exceeded 110,000, the highest specific estimate President Donald Trump has offered for the *final* death toll.”
MSNBC: “Exactly seven weeks ago today, Donald Trump said he believed the overall American death toll from the coronavirus pandemic would be between 50,000 and 60,000 people. It wasn't long before the president's forecast was exposed as tragically wrong, but that didn't stop him from repeating the same mistake, over and over again. … One month ago today, Trump appeared on Fox News, strained to pat himself on the back, and predicted that the death toll could go as high as 110,000. That was wrong, too.”
Trump has moved on from the public health crisis and plans to restart campaign rallies this month.
Politico: “Trump to restart MAGA rallies this month despite coronavirus”
Meanwhile, cases continue to spike in many states across the country before the recent protests began.
Forbes: “Coronavirus Infections Are On The Rise In 21 U.S. States, With Cases Spiking In California, Arizona And North Carolina”
Washington Post: “14 states and Puerto Rico hit highest seven-day average of new coronavirus infections”
Arizona Republic: “State health director tells Arizona hospitals to 'fully activate' emergency plans”
NBC Miami: “Florida Continues To See Big Jumps in Coronavirus Case Count; State Total Reaches Nearly 64,000”
NPR: “Texas Reports Record-Breaking COVID-19 Hospitalizations As State Reopens”
Trump is still failing to distribute aid to hospitals most in need or maintain supplies of the only drug known to work against coronavirus.
Wall Street Journal: “The Trump administration’s distribution of about $175 billion in federal aid to health-care providers has channeled more of that money to profitable hospitals and less to struggling facilities that most need the support amid the coronavirus pandemic, drawing renewed scrutiny and criticism by lawmakers and industry groups.”
CNN: “The US government's current supply of remdesivir, the only drug known to work against Covid-19, will run out at the end of the month, Dr. Robert Kadlec, a US Department of Health and Human Services official, told CNN.”
Trump’s delayed response made this crisis worse than it needed to be.
Vox: “There are many reasons the US death toll is so high, including a national response plagued by delays at the federal level, wishful thinking by President Trump, the sidelining of experts, a pointed White House campaign to place the blame for the Trump administration’s shortcomings on others, and time wasted chasing down false hopes based on poor science...Throughout the pandemic, however, much of the Trump administration’s spin — regarding Trump’s own response, China’s role, and more — has been misleading, if not outright untrue.”


COVID-19 Update

I wanted to discuss the big news that has rocked our state—on Wednesday, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court tossed out the Safer at Home order. I'm disappointed in my Republican colleagues in the legislature. It's bad enough that they would bring this lawsuit forward at taxpayers' expense during a pandemic, but it's unconscionable that they would do so with absolutely no plan to safely reopen the state.

Right now, the science warns that prematurely opening up could lead to a second wave of infections, undoing the hard work and sacrifice we've all endured over the past two months. This is especially dangerous in our rural areas where we have limited hospital capacity and an older population. Safer at Home has prevented so many unnecessary deaths, and we must continue to be diligent and careful going forward.

So what does that mean for reopening? Right now, there is a lot of confusion, but I hope that we can come together and enact a smart, safe and proactive strategy. In the meantime, please check in with your local county or tribal health departments on updates in your community: 
For those living in counties with no Safer at Home order, continue to do the following:
  • Frequently wash your hands. 
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people outside your home. 
  • Wear a facemask if you're out in public. 
  • Continue staying home whenever possible.
  • Don't travel for nonessential purposes. 
For businesses who require guidance for safe reopening, please see the WEDC page for relief and recovery resources.

I can't stress enough how grateful I am for the continued generosity and cooperation across Northern Wisconsin as we weather this crisis. Now that there isn't a statewide plan, we need to depend on each other, common sense and a spirit of community more now than ever. Please take care of each other. 

Unemployment Updates and Assistance

Here's what the Supreme Court decision means for unemployment:
  • It does not impact applications submitted or claims pending. Benefits will be paid to eligible claimants, even if the person returns to work before their claim is deemed eligible.
  • It does not impact federal programs like Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
  • It does not change work search. Governor Tony Evers waived work search March 12, 2020. Work search is still considered satisfied through the end of September 2020.
  • It does impact unemployment eligibility in this way: If an employer now has work for an employee who was laid off or furloughed and that employee refuses to return to work, that will cause an eligibility issue that must be adjudicated.
Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. If the employee—not the employer—is choosing not to work, the employee is likely not eligible for UI benefits.

However, the facts of each circumstance are important. If you have any question about whether you are eligible for benefits, please apply. Individuals considered ineligible for unemployment may be eligible for PUA. For further questions on Unemployment Insurance, please visit the DWD Frequently Asked Questions page.

Are you having trouble getting your unemployment benefits? If it has been at least three weeks since you submitted your application and you have not received your benefits, my office may be able to help you. Email with the following information: 
  • Full name 
  • Phone number
  • Issue you want to be resolved (i.e. When will I receive my benefits?)
  • Status of your application
    • Did you apply online?
    • What date did you submit it? 
    • Are you awaiting a decision on something that had to be investigated? 
My staff will send this information to the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and request that they promptly look into your case. I understand that this is a difficult financial time for many, and I am committed to helping you receive your benefits in a timely manner.

Testing Sites in Northern Wisconsin

Below is a list of publicly available community testing sites throughout Northern Wisconsin. There are ongoing efforts to expand and open new testing sites throughout the state, so please check out the DHS testing locations website for updates and new sites.

Price County
Prentice DNR Ranger Station, W5327 Granberg Rd, Prentice, WI 54556. Drive-thru testing available May 17th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sawyer County
Sawyer Hayward Hospital, 10655 Nyman Ave, Hayward, WI 54843. Drive-thru testing available on May 15th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Oneida County
Rhinelander High School, 665 Coolidge Ave, Rhinelander, WI 54501. Drive-thru testing available May 20th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Lakeland Union High School, 9573 WI-70, Minocqua, WI 54548. Drive-thru testing available May 21st from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Road Tests Waived

Starting Monday, parents now have the option to waive road tests for their 16- and 17-year-olds who have successfully completed all of the driver training requirements.

Eligible teens must complete a driver education class, behind-the-wheel training with a licensed instructor, and at least 30 hours of driving with their parent or sponsor. The waiver was put in place to cut down on the road test backlog and is expected to remain in effect until the end of 2020. In-person road tests will be available beginning May 26.

You can read more about this change, as well as other efforts the DMV is taking to address the backlog demand, here. 

COVID-19 Democratic Response Plan

This week, Legislative Democrats rolled out our plan to continue the necessary work of helping families and businesses in every corner of Wisconsin. While we passed legislation that took the necessary first steps to helping those affected by COVID-19, it simply wasn't enough.

We need to do more to address the health and economic devastation that has happened and will continue to happen. There are things only the legislature can do, and I for one am itching to get back to work in Madison and advocate for the people of Northern Wisconsin. I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle join us in crafting a plan to help us recover and thrive. 

As always, the best information on COVID-19 can be found at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. There is also great information to be found for all of the state of Wisconsin agencies at the governors website,

Important note: The information in this update is relevant as of May 15th at 10:30 am. Things are moving quickly and bound to change. 

Feel free to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns. Email me at or call at (608) 266-7690.

We are all in this together, and I have great confidence that the people of Wisconsin will rise and meet this challenge.

Be well, and thank you,