In Wisconsin, Another Battle Brews Over Right-to-Work

Darren Hauck/Getty Images/AFP
Darren Hauck/Getty Images/AFP

A right-to-work bill making its way through the Wisconsin legislature could be ready for Gov. Scott Walker’s signature next month. If it passes, Wisconsin will become the 25th state to adapt such legislation.

The measure is being pushed by Wisconsin’s Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Huffington Post reports that the state Senate will take up the bill on Tuesday. If it passes as expected, it will then go to the state Assembly early next month. Both chambers are currently controlled by Republicans, making it likely the bill will arrive on Walker’s desk in just a few weeks. Walker has already indicated he will sign it.

Right-to-work legislation makes it possible for workers to take a job without agreeing to join a union or pay union dues. In states that do not have right-to-work laws, unions can require individuals to pay for the cost of representing them in collective bargaining. Generally, once right-to-work laws are passed, union membership declines. The last two states to pass similar legislation were Michigan and Indiana, both of which passed right-to-work laws in 2012.

The possibility of Wisconsin becoming right-to-work has already riled up some opposition in the state, leading some to recommend a strike. Labor law professor Paul Secunda tells the Huffington Post, “I think they should shut it down.” He added, “I think if the union movement has any strength left it’s in the power of withholding labor. If it’s not willing to do that, there’s very little power they have.”

A report at Daily Kos indicates a gathering of “influential Wisconsin workers and political activists” was held Sunday at which there was unanimous agreement to call for a general strike. According to the report, the call for a strike will be made during a protest scheduled by the AFL-CIO on Tuesday.

Wisconsin has been the focus of conflict over unions since 2011 when Walker helped push Act 10 through the legislature to limit the bargaining power of public sector unions. The battle over Act 10 became a national spectacle with Democratic lawmakers fleeing the state to avoid a vote and tens of thousands of protesters occupying the State Capitol for several weeks.

After Act 10 passed the protests eventually died down but animus toward the Walker did not. A re-call election was held in 2012, but Walker won by a notable margin. Since then he has also won re-election and is now considered a possible contender for the Republican nomination for President in 2016.


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