As Wisconsin approaches 11,000 layoff notices issued in 2015, Democrats in the state Assembly are calling for an extraordinary session dedicated to jobs and economic development.
"It’s so clear there is a crying need for this," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.
Democrats have criticized their Republican colleagues for calling two extraordinary sessions this year: one to pass right-to-work legislation and another to pass a trio of bills related to campaign finance, ethics and elections oversight. Democrats argue those bills did nothing to help the middle class, while they have suggested more than 15 bills they believe would do just that.
Their suggestions include creating a student loan refinancing authority, raising the state minimum wage, fully restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit and increasing affordable childcare options.
"Wisconsin workers want their elected officials to recognize their hard work by giving them a fair shot and giving them a level playing field," said Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwuakee.
Oscar Mayer, Tyson Foods, Johnson Controls and other companies have announced nearly 11,000 layoffs in Wisconsin this year, up from 6,186 layoff notices given in 2014.
"The drip-drip-drip of job losses in Wisconsin has turned into a flood," said Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton. "We cannot afford to keep weathering the staggering job losses that have become so routine this past year with no substantive work to stem losses and create new opportunities."
Jorgensen argued that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the state's troubled jobs agency, hasn't done its part to keep jobs in the state and to create new opportunities.
Jorgensen said it's easy to shoot down the other party's ideas, but he and his colleagues are offering their own solutions.
Mike Valentine, a union safety representative at Oscar Mayer, said the gesture means a lot to him.
"It's frustrating after 15 strong years and you just hang it up with the stroke of a pen," Valentine said. "There are a lot of people hurting at Oscar Mayer right now."
Barca said Democrats aren't wedded to only their ideas, but they would like Republicans to consider them.
An extraordinary session must be agreed to by leadership of both the Assembly and the Senate.