Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Former UWO custodian runs for office

Josh Lehner / Advance-Titan Former UWO custodian Bob Knudsen stands by the university sign on the corner of Wisconsin Street and Pearl Avenue.

A former UW Oshkosh custodian is throwing his hat into politics by running for Winnebago County Board of Supervisors, District 16 in an effort to get more progressive voices in office.

Bob Knudsen, 49, said he was recruited by local representative Bob Poeschl in an effort to get more progressive voices in office. Knudsen was asked to run for the county board and eventually decided to. He wants to use the seat to bring his perspective to the conversation.

“The biggest thing I want to do … is bring the perspective of someone such as myself — a front-line worker, a third-shift worker,” he said. “People that don’t necessarily have a seat at the table.”

District 16 is more diverse than other districts, he said, and he hopes to represent everyone, especially people in circumstances similar to him.

“This particular district is really unique when it comes to the voters,” he said. “Students who live on campus are my voters. … Also within my district are a lot of middle class and working class folks. It’s going to take the ability to speak to a lot of different people … and most importantly, to listen.”

Knudsen said he engages in activism such as Black Lives Matter protests and promoting LGBTQ rights; additionally, he advocates for unionization.

If he wins, Knudsen said one of the most important issues he hopes to impact is the overturning of Act 10. Prior to its passing in 2011, municipal employees had the right to collectively bargain their wages, hours and their employment conditions.

Act 10 eliminated the ability of municipal employees who are not public safety employees to collectively bargain hours and employment conditions. In effect, Knudsen said, the act eliminated public sector unions in Wisconsin.

Had a strong union been in place, Knudsen said, the university’s $18 million deficit could have been prevented.

When UWO purchased the Congress Avenue Athletic Field from the city, the cost of maintaining it fell on the university.

Knudsen said that if a strong union had been in place when the field was added to the custodians’ responsibility, they would have been able to step in and demand a new employee be added, which would have likely canceled the sale.

“The university wouldn’t have been buying all these properties around the area,” he said. “A strong union could have prevented every single problem that UWO has been facing the past two years.”

He said that with a strong union, the university wouldn’t have lost the international studies and the continuing education program because the employees would have been under contract.

“Labor has power to make changes, prevent unwanted changes and prevent harm,” he said. “The labor movement can potentially save UWO from its mismanagement. The people responsible for an $18 million budget shortfall were not the people laid off. People making six figures making an eight figure mistake — those were the people who should have gone.”

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