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Pro-Working Family Candidate Unseats Entrenched Incumbent in Milwaukee

April 4, 2012

Amid national anti-worker rhetoric, Working America organizers reach thousands of voters across multiple demographics for progressive win in Wisconsin

Despite all eyes trained on Wisconsin’s GOP presidential primary yesterday, voters in Milwaukee’s District 12 made their voices heard loud and clear, casting their ballots in favor of pro-working family candidate and former community organizer José Perez to be alderman in Common Council District 12—a largely Latino district whose voters chose to remove incumbent James Witkowiak for his poor record on working-class issues.

“The people of District 12 went to the polls to make a change,” said Working America State Director Peter Drummond. “Yesterday, they united across demographic lines to get good representation for their families and communities.” Witkowiak used to be popular in this district, in which 49 percent of registered voters self-identify as Latino and 43 percent identify as white.

Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, supported Perez against Witkowiak—who became a symbol of candidates who take labor’s support for granted even as they undermine basic tenets of economic fairness. The Milwaukee Area Labor Council, SEIU and We Are Milwaukee also played critical roles in this upset.

“Working people are tired of politicians who claim to represent their interests and then vote against minimum job requirements such as a decent wage or the ability to earn time off for maternity leave. That’s not who they want representing District 12,” Drummond said.

The upset comes as such leading national figures as former Gov. Mitt Romney—who won the GOP primary in Wisconsin yesterday—former Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Paul Ryan stand vocally by anti-worker Gov. Scott Walker, and sweep the airwaves with attacks on workers and their unions. “There is a lot of poisonous rhetoric coming out of the right-wing noise machine but, as evidenced yesterday, working families in District 12 know who stands with them and who doesn’t,” Drummond said.

Since March 21, Working America organizers have reached out to 4,000 people at their homes in Common Council District 12. Working America has more than 25,000 members in Milwaukee and nearly 100,000 across the state of Wisconsin.