We were shocked and saddened to learn today of the untimely death of Wisconsin Assemblywoman Tamara Grigsby (D) Milwaukee. As a social worker and later a legislator, Grigsby fiercely defended the disadvantaged, the disenfranchised, and the most vulnerable against the neoliberal agenda ushered in by Governor Scott Walker and his administration.
I first became aware of Grigsby while watching hours and hours of testimony during the 2011 hearings about Governor Walker’s budget repair bill – the infamous legislation that gutted collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin and launched an historic uprising.
Sensitive to the very real hardship the bill would impose on some workers, Grigsby occasionally resisted Chair Robin Vos’ efforts speed up the hearing by disallowing questions from legislators about testimony.
One category of workers, LTEs or Limited Term Employees, were distraught that their health insurance would be eliminated immediately upon passage of the bill. Although many LTEs have college degrees and have held their positions for years, they generally earn less than $15 an hour and remain on LTE status indefinitely – without sick leave or paid vacation.
After yet another LTE, this one with a seriously ill husband who depended on her health insurance, presented moving testimony about her case, Grigsby asked “whether or not the Walker administration would be willing to at least temporarily, set aside this bill and work with the people of Wisconsin?”
“No,” was the swift and firm response from the administration official.
After the passage of Act 10, Wisconsin Republicans continued their assault on workers – and Grigsby continued to fiercely defend them. In July of 2011, when the Republican-dominated legislature sought to reject federally funded extended unemployment benefits for Wisconsinites, Grigsby delivered a scathing rebuke. You can see her passionate speech in this video. Hang in there – it takes her about 40 or so seconds to really warm up, but once she does, she’s on fire!
We extend warmest condolences to Ms Grigsby’s family, friends, and other loved ones. RIP to a great lady. Wisconsin is a much poorer place without her.