Progressive Milwaukee

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Template:TOCnestleft Progressive Milwaukee was a Wisconsin affiliate of the New Party.


In 1996 Democratic Socialists of America member Bruce Colburn was secretary-treasurer of the Milwaukee County Labor Council AFL-CIO, co-chair of the Campaign for a Sustainable Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Jobs Initiative, president of Wisconsin Citizen Action, and one of the founders of Progressive Milwaukee.[1]

In 1995, Bruce Colburn was an officer of the Milwaukee Central Labor Council and the Chair of the local New Party affiliate in Milwaukee.[2]

Spencer Coggs is a former Board Member, Progressive Milwaukee Steering Committee, former member.[3]


In the mid 1990s in Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Madison, Central Labor Council members took leadership in developing two sorts of political formations: Labor Electoral Coalitions and New Party affiliates.

The Labor Electoral Coalitions included both AFL-CIO unions and non-AFL-CIO unions such as the Wisconsin Education Association Council (the Wisconsin NEA affiliate); and they also include such labor-friendly citizen advocacy groups as the Wisconsin Council of Senior Citizens and Citizen Action.

These coalitions boosted turnout in key local races. In Milwaukee, during the last school board election cycle, "we were able to drive up our base turnout by 10 percent and win four out of five targeted school board races in April 1995". Candidates from Progressive Milwaukee, the New Party affiliate, were elected in two of those races.

The New Party, called the New Progressive Party (NPP) in Wisconsin, had four affiliates in the state. The different NPP affiliates elected some 40 candidates from 1993 to 1996, running their own candidates in local non-partisan elections, and supporting member Democrats in partisan ones. In Milwaukee, the school board passed a minimum "living wage" of $7.70 for their workers and workers in private firms contracting with the school board. Before "our action", those same workers had been making less than $6 an hour.

In Madison, the Progressive Dane affiliate displaced the "anti-union developer block" from the county board. While the New Party did not yet control the board, they held the balance of power. In coalition with traditional Democrats, they have been able to "enact much tougher land use policies, and are moving on to a living wage campaign".[4]


Efforts to build an alternative to the Democratic Party came to a head in May 1994 , when the Wisconsin's Labor-Farm Party merged with Progressive Milwaukee and the New Party to form the [[New Progressive Party].

Labor-Farm has captured local offices in Madison, but since its birth in 1982, a strong statewide presence hasd eluded it.

The New Party--which merged with Progressive Milwaukee in 1993--championed the idea of electoral "fusion," as practiced in New York, where the Liberal Party can endorse the major-party candidates of its choice.

Cross-endorsement was the main stumbling block in merger talks among Wisconsin's alternative parties. But delegates finally agreed to affiliate, embracing an agenda that includes gender equity, development, Native American rights, and single-payer health care for the state. A draft platform also opposes the welfare-reform plan enacted by the Democratic-controlled Assembly which would end Aid to Families with Dependent Children by the end of the decade.[5]

State legislature victories

In 1996, Progressive Milwaukee members affiliated with the New Party won a seat in the state Assembly and two seats in the state Senate.[6]

In 1996, in addition to the four Progressive Milwaukee/New Party-backed candidates running for state office (Spencer Coggs, Dale Dulberger, Gwendolynne Moore, Johnnie Morris-Tatum, two New Party members in Fox Valley ran for the state assembly. Progressive Fox Valley founder and chair Tony Palmeri was in a surprisingly close race against an four-term incumbent conservative Republican in Oshkosh. New Party and AFSCME member Corky Van Handel also ran for the state assembly in a nearby district. Both ran as Democrats. [7]

"Progressive populist coalition"

Bruce Colburn, secretary-treasurer of the Milwaukee Labor Council, member of the New Party-affiliated Progressive Milwaukee and president of Wisconsin Citizen Action, and Joel Rogers, chairman of the New Party, wrote of the possibility of building a new progressive populist coalition in "What's Next: Beyond the Election" in the Nov. 18 1996 issue of The Nation.[8]



  1. Research Review, Volume 1 | Number 24, Building Independent Political Power
  2. New Ground 38, January - February, 1995
  3. VoteSmart bio, accessed March 10, 2011
  4. Research Review, Volume 1 | Number 24, Building Independent Political Power
  5. [ Progressive Party reborn - Wisconsin Progressive, The, August, 1994 by Mike McCallister
  6. Cullen, The Progressive Populist, EDITORIAL: The next campaign November 1996
  7. [The Columbus Free Press New Party Online News - November 1996 Running to Win New Party members are busy knocking on doors, hammering down lawn signs, and phoning voters to support NP candidates this fall]
  8. Cullen, The Progressive Populist, EDITORIAL: The next campaign November 1996