Mary Burke: The Blogging Blue Interview

Mary Burke

I’ll admit – I’ve been less than enthusiastic about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke. I’ve been critical of the way her campaign has been rolled out, and I’ve been less than thrilled with her reluctance (at least initially) to give straight answers about her policy positions. However, I recently had an opportunity to sit down and speak with Burke, and after our conversation I came away less apprehensive about her candidacy.

Given the deep concerns many public employees have about the negative impact Scott Walker’s attempts to bust public employee unions through Act 10 has had on them, I started our conversation with a question about Act 10. I pressed Burke to share her thoughts on Act 10, and Burke made it clear that she not only supports collective bargaining for public sector employees, but that she would work to get those rights restored.

“Any success we have is because of our people,” Burke said, noting that while pay and benefits are important for recruiting and retaining good public employees, improving employee morale is equally important, given how morale among so many public employees has suffered as a result of Act 10. Burke noted that the actions of Gov. Walker in implementing Act 10 is exact opposite approach of the one she took as Commerce Secretary. Burke noted that as Commerce Secretary she got into the field to get to know the workers in hopes of finding out what they needed in order to do their jobs better, and she said she found that the voices of the people in the field weren’t being heard. Burke said that she created “councils” for employees and management to get together and talk about issues, which led to an improved workplace as a result.

As our conversation continued, I asked Burke to explain how she reconciles her narrative as a job creator with criticisms of Trek Bicycle’s record of outsourcing jobs, especially in light of a recent Labor Department ruling which said up to 20 former Trek employees are eligible for federal aid after their jobs were outsourced. In response to my question, Burke said, “I would say first and foremost that Trek does more than any other bike company to support manufacturing in the United States.” Burke also pointed out that Trek Bicycle produces more bikes in the United States than any other company, adding that the company’s payroll in Wisconsin has more than doubled over the past 20 years while employing nearly 1,000 people in the state.

Burke added, “[Trek employees] buy over $40 million in goods and services from other Wisconsin businesses, many of them small businesses, that help, again, create more jobs in the state.” She also defended Trek’s record when it comes to its employees by pointing out that the company values its people, with the largest single shareholder being the employee stock ownership group, so that every employee has a stake in the ownership of the company.

Asked if she would support an increase in the state’s minimum wage, Burke said would like to see an increase in the state’s minimum wage, but she was quick to note that she would need to make sure analysis is done to ensure no jobs would be lost or that job growth would not stagnate as a result of a minimum wage increase, especially in a weak economy. Burke added she felt more also needed to be done to address underlying issues that can affect the ability of individuals to earn a better wage, issues such as education. According to Burke “[M]aking sure people have the opportunities to be working their way up and be able to earn more money” should be a priority in our state.

Pressed about so-called “right to work” laws, Burke made it clear she does not support so-called “right to work” laws, saying, “We should stick to the laws already on the books.”

Burke has previously indicated she would have taken federal funds to expand BadgerCare in Wisconsin, and so I asked her if she would also support restoring eligibility criteria for BadgerCare back to 200% of the federal poverty line. “I would consider it,” Burke said, qualifying her statement by saying that the state needs to live within its means and make sure its budget is balanced. As long as those criteria are met, Burke said she’d look at the options available on how to expand BadgerCare to more Wisconsinites.

While my interview with Mary Burke didn’t touch on every issue I had hoped to, it’s my hope that I’ll have an opportunity to sit down with her again to cover those issues we weren’t able to cover.

33 comments to Mary Burke: The Blogging Blue Interview

  • When Vinehout was asked at a Labor Temple gathering in Wausau if she’d restore Badgercare eligibility back to 200% of the federal poverty line, which is where Tommy Thompson set it, she replied immediately that the lowering of the line to 100% never had to happen. She went on to explain why using figures from her alternative budget.

    Maybe Burke should visit Vinehout’s website? Lots of good information there!

       4 likes

  • Ed Heinzelman

    As far as job loss when raising the minimum wage: the job loss statistically indistinguishable from zero. This is from a NY Times piece by Arindrajit Dube (an associate professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) from the Sunday December 1, 2013 edition:

    “In my work with T. William Lester and Michael Reich, we use nearly two decades’ worth of data and compare all bordering areas in the United States to show that while higher minimum wages raise earnings of low-wage workers, they do not have a detectable impact on employment. Our estimates — published in 2010 in the Review of Economics and Statistics — suggest that a hypothetical 10 percent increase in the minimum wage affects employment in the restaurant or retail industries, by much less than 1 percent; the change is in fact statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/30/the-minimum-we-can-do/?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

       3 likes

  • Duane12

    Zach, with no disrespect, I hope you will give equal time, by phone or whatever, to Senator Vinehout on these same issues.

    Thank you for updating us on the Burke campaign. There has not been much reporting in the media.

       0 likes

  • Cat Kin

    Mary Burke, like most successful business executives, has to know how to negotiate with all types of people: associates, competitors and especially employees. One is not able to do this if one can’t think things through on both personal and macro levels. This is where many politicians fail when looking at poll numbers or budget constraints and profits.

    No doubt, she would be a huge improvement over most of our current political executives in Wisconsin. I don’t believe, however, she has the best understanding among all our potential gubernatorial candidates of the structure, advantages and/or weaknesses of Wisconsin. But you can now see why, other than money, Tate and Dem. leadership have endorsed her candidacy.

       0 likes

    • nonquixote

      “…of the structure, advantages and/or weaknesses of Wisconsin.”

      I’d love to understand your point better, really. This part of your statement has my baffled though because I don’t know at all, what these ‘things,’ are, that you are referring to. Could you please provide some examples of what you see as these, “structural,” things, that are advantages or disadvantages of Wisconsin.

         0 likes

      • Cat Kin

        Pick up any tour guide book on Wisconsin and you will find many environmental features not found in the same degree in other states of the Union. Pick up any history of the State and you will find unique social structures caused by the heavy immigration, indigenous cultures, and timber industries to name just a few. The overtly social political climate was formed as a consequence of these rather unique social and environmental influences. The current Wisconsin political climate has tended to change as a result of a corporate or monopolistic reaction to the former more social structure. But surely you know this Windmill or do you just like to read my posts?

           0 likes

        • shirley hugdahl

          how interesting.. i did not use the word “structure” in my communication..just goes to show ya!!!

             0 likes

        • nonquixote

          Cat, it was a sincere question. I fully understand there are numerous WI structures, both current and historical economic, political, social, environmental, ethnic, etc. etc., structures.

          Your undefined use of the word, “structure,” by itself though, and then telling readers we could, “…now see why,…” simply made no sense under normal and regular English language usage. With no defined use of the term, there was NOTHING, logically leading to your conclusion about Tate in any fashion except maybe in your own mind.

          That you see Burke as deficient for the gubernatorial position she seeks is not lost on anyone, but your explanation of the reasons here, and frequently on this site, are often cryptic at best.

             0 likes

  • shirley hugdahl

    heres some advise from an old old demo. now is not the time to equivocate .. come out with possitives!! loudly!! you can always waver everyone else does. the democrats im so disappointed with are those who are so stunned with the depths the reps sink to. theres no shame to sink to their level cause we need to win..i would celebrate if we had our own carl rove.

       0 likes

    • nonquixote

      Morning Ms Hugdahl,

      It is nice to see a new name on the BB boards. I think you have figured out the, “Reply,” function, as for me to reply to this comment of yours, I clicked, “Reply,” next to your 12:46 pm time stamp. The non-chronological order of the comments has me missing some of them from time to time, myself.

      Not being sure of all the points you were making, I think I did get the part that the Democrats need to grow a, “pair,” and stand up for what they claim to believe in a more direct fashion. I do think we can do that without stooping to being more Carl Rove like.

      Hope you have the opportunity to comment again. I generally learn more of value from my elders than I learn from those with less life experience.

         0 likes

      • shirley hugdahl

        thank you. imust have misunderstood the motives of your blog. it seemed to be republican there for a while.. sorry. i do need an outlet for my frustrations so am grateful to have found you. im losing friends fast cause of my rants. so thanks again for being here

           0 likes

        • nonquixote

          First this is Zach’s blog, not mine. Second, there are a few progressive, socialist and left leaning political people commenting here who do not think Mary Burke has any chance against Walker and that the Democratic Party of WI is more Republican leaning than is to our liking, i.e. courting big money and corporate profits instead of traditional Democratic principles and values.

          Speak your mind, glad you responded.

             0 likes

  • nonquixote

    Zach

    OT, noticing the frequent advertising update (every few seconds) in the side bar, for a couple of weeks, now. An unintended happening (maybe) is that I frequently get new tab that opens by itself, with a site request to update my (current) windows7 drivers, only when I come to BB, no other site. Bug or feature, I don’t know, I just close the new tab. Thought you might like to know. Thanks.

       0 likes

  • shirley hugdahl

    you’ve lost my support, lady, when you waffle in any way with the iron mine. who’s gonna win?

       0 likes

    • Stan

      Burke’s position on the “iron mine” is the same position as Jauch and Cullen’s position and they are the front people on the opposition to GTAC.

         0 likes

  • shirley hugdahl

    to clarify ..that iron mine is the worst introduction since we allowed sand mining in west wis. who is the bureau of land management , who are they accountable to and who are the corps of engineers. who are they working for? let me guess. im an 84 year old who feels responsible for the world we leave our kids

       0 likes

  • nonquixote

    Nichols and Sylvester just now discussing Vinehout as having, unofficially, officially announced that she is hiring staff and will be in a primary for the Democratic gubernatorial race.

    Waiting on details as I finish work today. Sorry for no more specifics at the moment.

       0 likes

  • Paul

    Zach, I am curious about your personal impressions on the interview. Walking away “less apprehensive” isn’t nearly the same thing as feeling convinced that she really has the interests of working people as a primary concern or that she even necessarily understands them on a personal level. Many of her answers still seem noncommittal, especially around minimum wage issues and this “council” business when asked about collective bargaining.

       0 likes

    • Paul, Mary Burke brought up the “councils” (which as she described them sounded a lot like labor-management meetings we had in DOC) as an example of how she tried to work with employees to hear them out.

      As for my personal impressions of her, she answered my question about Act 10 without any ambiguity, and she made it clear to me that she supports collective bargaining.

         1 likes

  • shirley hugdahl

    you are obviously NOT on my side .. what kind of crap are you, coming on as mary burkes web??? you people make me “want to throw up”

       0 likes

  • shirley hugdahl

    common you red mfrs print this.

       0 likes

  • nonquixote

    Thanks for pursuing an interview, Zach.

    I am hearing nothing yet beyond professionally coached hedging from Ms Burke, saying nothing solid that might be criticized by the ‘right.’ nor be criticized by potential big $$ donors. Same old losing strategy as Wall/Ribble and a few others in 2012. Just my take.

    Sort of on topic, a future interview idea, Maggie Brickerman. Half dozen or so emails to her in her former position with the DPW, NOT ONE REPLY, yet two requests for Burke campaign donations from her in the last week using the Progressives United ploy of help us fight a particular issue by donating to said candidate.

    Saw Maggie in person, not really apologizing nor taking responsibility for the 2010 election, “D” fiasco, but curious as to the supposed non-DPW courting of Burke as candidate as it relates to Brickerman jumping DPW (sinking?) ship. Does she see herself as free to lead in a different fashion not being second fiddle or is she the main point collaboration between Burke and DPW? Just an idea. Others may have suggestions to widen the scope.

    Again, thanks for the interview work.

       0 likes

  • John Casper

    Zach, congrats on the interview.

    Deeply grateful for the direct, no-nonsense question about right-to-starve (cough, cough, work, cough, cough) legislation.

       0 likes

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