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U.S. congressmen, experts discuss labor force at Memorial Union

Democratic U.S. congressmen met with UW-Madison experts, policy makers and labor representatives to discuss the “Future of Work, Wages, and Labor” at Memorial Union’s Festival Room Thursday.

Image By: Morgan Winston

Congressional leaders, including U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., focused on addressing the political, economic and cultural concerns facing Wisconsin amid a changing economy during a discussion at Memorial Union Thursday.

The panel met to talk about issues ranging from declining union membership, stagnant wages and job loss to racial disparity and public school funding.

The panel included U.S. Reps. Pocan, Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., and Donald Norcross, D-N.J., as well as education, labor and policy professionals from around the country.

Dingell stressed the importance of the panel for understanding the nature of the economy in order to benefit working families.

“We’re trying to understand the changing workforce, what kind of training we need and what the jobs of the future are,” Dingell said. “It’s a very complicated subject and we need to talk about these issues.”

Pocan and DeSaulnier created the “Future of Work, Wages, and Labor” group last year to provide a forum for people to candidly discuss problems they faced in the labor market and to further examine topics salient to working families.

Pocan addressed the changing economy and how the economic climate is shaped not only by jobs and labor market policies but by schools, health care and public services.

“People’s paychecks have been relatively flat, they’re not getting the same benefits they traditionally had through work arrangements and there’s a lot of economic insecurity,” Pocan said. “We had this conversation looking at every aspect: from schools, to how healthcare is offered, to social services.”

“There's a lot that relates to employment. By making our school and social services better, we can help people get by economically,” Pocan added.

Pocan and DeSaulnier are hopeful that the issues discussed in the panel will translate into policy that is directed at real issues people face every day.

“There’s a changing nature of work and labor in Wisconsin. We've been going around the country and at the end of this we hope to put together some public policy ideas at the federal level in order to be proactive rather than reactive.” Pocan said. 

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