|IAM District 10 members gather at the Wisconsin State House in Madison on February 24, 2015 to protest a right-to-work bill being rushed through the state legislature.|
After saying in his re-election bid that he wouldn’t push for so-called right-to-work legislation, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) now says he will sign a bill being railroaded through the state’s General Assembly to make Wisconsin the country’s 25th right-to-work state.
Labor activists will protest at the state Capitol in Madison on February 24 and 25 while the state senate holds hearings and debates the measure. The bill could come to a full floor vote as early as this week.
“[Right to work] is going to bring everybody down,” said Russ Krings, Directing Business Representative for IAM District 10 in Milwaukee, at a press conference. “It’s going to affect not only the union families and non-union families, it’s going to affect all the businesses that we go and spend our money at. This is going to bring the economy down.”
Living in a “right-to-work state” does not mean you have the right to work. Or that you don’t have to join a union. No one is required to join a union under federal labor law.
But the same law mandates that unions represent every worker in a workplace where the majority of workers have voted for union representation. Right-to-work laws take advantage of this obligation by making it illegal for companies and unions to negotiate agreements that say workers will pay for at least their fair share of the cost of collective bargaining.
Big Business interest groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the National Right-to-Work Committee know that the legislation siphons power from workers, and ultimately fattens corporate profits. Studies show that states with right-to-work laws on the books have higher poverty rates, more workplace injuries and fatalities, less employer-sponsored health insurance and lower wages.
Right-to-work advocates say the law will make Wisconsin more attractive to business.
The editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the largest newspaper in the state, disagrees: “But will Wisconsin be better off as a right-to-work state? There is no compelling evidence that it will be and plenty of evidence that the working class may, in the end, suffer as a result of what the GOP is contemplating.”
Wisconsin Gov. Walker, touring the country in anticipation of a probable run for president in 2016, already stripped collective bargaining rights for most of the state’s public employees when he signed Act 10 amidst mass protests in 2011.
“This right-to-work sham is about much more than unions,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It is simply the next step in the billionaire right wing’s attempt to strip our freedoms to bargain with our employers as we see fit, ensure safe work places, and raise wages across the country.”
Do you live in Wisconsin? Attend a rally at noon tomorrow, Wednesday, February 25, on the State Street side of the Capitol in Madison. Visit the Wisconsin AFL-CIO website for more information and updates.