“Right-to-Work” legislation: Reaction by state lawmakers, others on anticipated vote

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) — There has been a flood of reaction to what is expected to be a vote on Right-to-Work legislation next week in Madison. The following are statements from a variety of state legislators.

State Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D – La Crosse)

“It is absurd that Republicans would fast-track legislation to interfere with private business contracts and lower wages for all Wisconsin workers at a time when our state is facing a massive $2.2 billion budget crisis.

“Objective polling clearly shows that the vast majority of Wisconsin residents view this issue as a distraction. Rather than creating economic uncertainty for Wisconsin families and small businesses, Republicans should focus their attention on boosting family wages, closing the skills gap and fixing the $2.2 billion budget crisis they created.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester)

“As a strong supporter of right to work, I welcome the opportunity to take up legislation that gives Wisconsin workers the freedom to choose to join a union.

“In the past, I have repeatedly said that the Assembly would take up the legislation after the Senate approves it.  When the bill gets to our chamber, Reps. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) and Dave Craig (R-Big Bend) will take the lead for the Assembly.

“Wisconsin should be a right-to-work state. The public widely supports worker freedom and the potential positive impact to the state’s economy can no longer be ignored.

“I drafted right-to-work legislation as a freshman lawmaker and I look forward to passing the bill once it’s approved in the Senate.”

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D – Kenosha)

“Governor Walker has called so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation a distraction and apparently that’s exactly what he wants. By rushing to pass Right to Work in less than a week, clearly the governor and Republican legislators want to distract from how destructive their budget is for Wisconsin’s workers, students and middle-class families.

“Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and ‘Right to Work’ would only make things worse. In fact, the average worker in Right to Work states makes between $5,000 and $6,000 less than the average worker in other states. And calling an extraordinary session will make the budget disaster Republicans have created worse since we’re already scheduled to be in session the following week anyway. What’s the emergency?

“There is broad agreement among workers, businesses and everyday citizens that Right to Work is wrong for Wisconsin. Yet the governor and Republican lawmakers have proven they will do anything to change the subject from their mismanagement of Wisconsin’s economy, including driving down wages for our workers and further dividing our state.”

State Sen. Alberta Darling (R – River Hills)

“I strongly support Right to Work legislation and look forward to providing workplace freedom for Wisconsin’s workers.

“Wisconsin is in the middle of an amazing economic turnaround that is defying Democrats who are still rooting against our state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin is second in the Midwest, and led each of our neighbors, in the rate of year-over-year private sector job growth. However, this is not the time to rest on our laurels.

“The fact is states with the kind of workplace freedom that Right to Work offers grow jobs at a much faster rate than states with forced unionization. We can and should trust workers in Wisconsin to decide for themselves if they want to join a union.”

State Sen. Chris Larson (D – Milwaukee)

“The facts are, if passed into law, RTW means less freedom for workers and hurts all of us. RTW laws reduce worker wages, diminish worker health and safety, at the same time increase poverty and workplace fatalities. This legislation puts Wisconsin in the race to the bottom. It is simply wrong for Wisconsin.

“Wisconsinites are smart enough to realize that if this legislation were actually going to be good for workers, it wouldn’t have the backing of the Koch brothers, regressive think tanks, and corporate interests.

“Today, Tea Party Republicans make it clear that corporate profiteering is their sole focus when it comes to the economy. Democrats, with the support of a majority of Wisconsin residents, are fighting to protect the wages, health, and safety of Wisconsin workers.

“Once again, Republicans have decided to fast-track legislation that pits neighbor against neighbor and directly attacks those individuals most vital to our economy. I’m calling on any remaining moderate Republicans in the Senate to show some backbone and stand up for their neighbors and not cave to threats by special interest groups.”

State Rep. Dan Knodl (R – Germantown)

“I have long been a strong supporter of right to work and I am excited to see that Assembly Republicans are committed to moving Wisconsin forward. Right to work is an important piece of the puzzle for improving Wisconsin’s economy and business climate.

“The Assembly will take up this legislation once the Senate approves it. I will be joining my colleagues, Reps. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Dave Craig (R-Big Bend), as Assembly leads on this bill.

“Right to work is about increasing worker freedom and opportunity, growing our economy, job creation, and overall economic prosperity. There are 24 states that already have right-to-work laws and Wisconsin should be excited about the prospect of becoming number 25.”

State Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D – Milton)

“So-called right to work legislation seemed to be on the back burner, until Governor Walker had a PR nightmare on his hands with his budget.

“Now, Republicans desperately want to distract from Walker’s cuts to the UW System, to public schools, and to popular and much-needed programs like SeniorCare.  They’re playing a dangerous game of misdirection, jeopardizing Wisconsin’s economy and family-supporting Wisconsin jobs.

“Right to work’ is wrong for working-class families, who stand to lose income and job opportunity.  ‘Right to work’ is wrong for Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) President/CEO Kurt Bauer

“The Legislature needs to move swiftly to pass Right to Work to provide freedom for workers and to improve our business climate. Let’s get this bill to the Governor’s desk so he can sign it. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos deserve the highest praise for moving expeditiously to pass Right to Work into law.”

Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin State Director David Fladeboe

“We thank Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Speaker Robin Vos for taking bold leadership on Right-to-Work and calling for an Extraordinary Session to consider this piece of vital legislation.  Passing a Right-to-Work law in the Badger State is long overdue and this bill will allow us to take major steps forward for the rights of workers across Wisconsin.

“No employee should ever lose their job or be denied employment because they are forced to join a union. This is bill is about worker rights and guaranteeing freedom in the workplace. It is time for Wisconsin to pass this important legislation.”

Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO

“Right to Work rings a false promise for Wisconsin.  Right to Work will not create jobs and will lower wages for all workers. Every worker suffers when states enact anti-worker Right to Work laws. Rushing this legislation through in an extraordinary session is a slap in the face to our democracy.”

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross

“Right to work is wrong for Wisconsin workers and families. It’s a complicated scheme that tilts the system even further in favor of corporate CEOs who are concerned only with their profits.

“It’s sure not the people of Wisconsin who work hard and deserve a fair shot to succeed that are asking for the lower wages and reduced benefits that come with right to work.

“All workers, whether they are in a union or not, are hurt by right to work laws. In the state’s that have it, the average worker earns $5,000 less per year and has fewer benefits.

“Even public education gets hurt, state’s with right to work spend over $3,300 less per pupil and their academic achievement lags behind. Meanwhile they give away more in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations.

“No wonder on a Friday before a bill has even been publicly released Republican legislative leaders have unveiled a scheme to try to limit debate and ram the measure through the legislature next week.

“But instead of keeping their focus where it needs to be – creating well paying jobs and fixing the state budget mess they’ve created – the GOP legislature is kowtowing to the corporate special interests and their lobbyists.”

National Football League Players Association

“The NFL Players Association stands together with the working families of Wisconsin and organized labor in their fight against current attacks against their right to stand together as a team.
Devoted food and commercial workers who spend their Sundays servicing our players and fans at Lambeau Field will have their wellbeing and livelihood jeopardized by Right to Work. Governor Scott Walker may not value these vital employees, but as union members, we do. We understand how devastating it would be if they lost the ability to have their workplace conditions and wages guaranteed through collective bargaining. We do not have to look any further than our own CBA to see that a band of workers, joined together as a union, can overcome decades of poor workplace conditions and drastically improve pensions and benefits.

Beyond the stadium, generations of skilled workers have made Wisconsin a warm, welcoming home for our members of the Packers as well as those on visiting teams. Committed men and women in industries such as construction, steel, automotive and communications make it a state where our future members are proud to grow up and attend college, and a place where many of our former players choose to call home after their playing days are over.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that average wages across all industries in right-to-work states were $4 per hour lower than those in non-right-to-work states. One study determined that Wisconsin would see a net loss of between $3.89 and $4.82 billion annually in workers’ incomes. In fact, Governor Walker’s anti-union efforts have resulted in Wisconsin leading the nation in job losses for two months in a row.

This proposed legislation unfairly risks the health and safety of employees by depriving them of on-the-job protections that unions have historically defended. The NFLPA will closely monitor this week’s scheduled hearings and debates and keep its membership informed of any developments.”

MLB Players Union:

“The Major League Baseball Players Association stands with our brothers and sisters in organized labor and deplores the current attempts in Wisconsin to undermine the collective voices of working people by seeking passage of so-called “Right to Work” legislation. We are proud to be among the ranks of labor unions that negotiate the terms and conditions of employment for their members, sitting across the table from management as equal parties under the federal law that guarantees the right to union representation. This state legislation is nothing more than an obvious attempt to undermine those rights and that power.

The 1200 members of the MLBPA — every 40-man roster Player on every one of the thirty Major League clubs, including the Milwaukee Brewers — have achieved much through collective bargaining, including a fair pension, good health insurance and a grievance and arbitration process. None of these gains were achieved without a struggle. At every juncture, the Players had to stand up for themselves to assert their rights and demonstrate their solidarity. The benefits the Players now enjoy — free agency, salary arbitration, and a right to a fair share of the profits made in the baseball industry — all came about because the Players had the courage to act as a group and unite across all the lines that employers have historically used to divide workers. We urge the members of the Wisconsin legislature to reject this anti-union and anti-worker legislation.”


  • Neko

    The Right to Work is neither “anti-union” nor “pro-union.” It is a matter of individual freedom. The Right to Work principle affirms the right of all Americans to work where they want and for whom they want without coercion of any kind to join or not to join labor unions, or to support them in any way. Unions, after all, are private organizations. No other private organization in America insists on having the power to extract financial support from unwilling people.

    • I work for a living

      Neko – how about condo associations? private organization which if you own a condo you have to join – maybe there can be an opt out included – under the right to freeload – get something of value and don’t pay – and can’t have the
      organization not provide the benefit by law. Maybe the state can go to court to let unions not provide benefits
      to the folks who don’t want them or don’t want to pay for them. Can I opt out of my car insurance too while we are at it.
      Wouldn’t that be freedom?

  • ross

    The United states is a union. Are we anti america? We pay taxes for the protection of our country, same as we pay dues to protect our wages and futures.

  • babette372012

    The working people and their representatives have to take a stand and say no to “right to work”. We took the first step today with the protest downtown. Hopefully that sent a message to legislators and the Governor that their is opposition in this state to ramrodding this anti-union legislation through in a special session.

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