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Wisconsin AFL-CIO plans rallies Tuesday, Wednesday at the Capitol over “Right-to-Work” bill

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MADISON (WITI/AP) — The Wisconsin AFL-CIO has planned rallies Tuesday and Wednesday (February 24th and 25th) in Madison to protest a bill that would make Wisconsin a "Right-to-Work" state. This could bring scenes reminiscent of the 2011 protests over Act 10 back to the Capitol.

On Friday, Governor Scott Walker backed a surprise move by Republican legislators to quickly vote on the bill, an action the likely 2016 presidential candidate initially said should be delayed to avoid re-igniting massive pro-union protests.

"On Monday Morning at 9:00 a.m. a ballot will be introduced  for an extraordinary session to introduce Right-to-Work legislation," Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said.

Sen. Fitzgerald is leading the push for Right-to-Work legislation in Wisconsin -- launching another labor fight that could bring protests like what we saw regarding Act 10.

"As we stand here today, nobody's got a real good guesstimate on what could happen in the building during the public hearing. We're trying to prepare for that.  I just have my fingers crossed that this isn't going to turn into something similar to Act 10. The Governor is supportive.  I think he believes that there is potential that this could turn into something that could be disruptive," Fitzgerald said.

Walker rose to prominence in 2011, when he pushed through Act 10 -- a law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. That led to protests with as many as 100,000 people and a 2012 recall election that Walker won.

There's one big difference this time around. Now, Republicans in the Senate have an expanded majority. The prolonged standoff that occurred when Democrats left the state to prevent a vote is not in play this time.

The Right-to-Work bill would make it a crime for businesses and labor unions to force employees to pay union dues -- essentially weakening unions in private businesses, like manufacturers.

"When Scott Walker fought for Act 10, that was about a very narrow topic.  That was about public labor unions. In other words, the right to unionize within government. Now what we're talking about is unions in the private sector," UW-Milwaukee Professor Mordecai Lee said.

Lee says beyond the stated objective of creating a better business climate, Republicans have another agenda.

"What we're seeing is the dismantling of the Democratic coalition in Wisconsin politics," Lee said.

Sen. Fitzgerald says he wants to avoid the chaos of four years ago, but union leaders and other progressive activists are planning rallies around the state, and in Madison on Tuesday and Wednesday -- when the Senate plans to debate and eventually pass the bill.

"We haven't seen the bill yet. They haven't introduced it, even though they're calling for passing it next week in the state Senate. Now how outrageous is that? Here we go again -- back to polarizing the people of this state. It's clearly part of a far right wing agenda to try to make sure that we diminish the middle class even further," Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said.

"My experience as leader is when you have the votes, you go to the floor. You don`t wait around," Sen. Fitzgerald said.

Right-to-Work laws are in place in 24 other states.

The Senate and Assembly will hold an "extraordinary session" to pass the legislation this week in the Senate and next week in the Assembly.

Walker has said he would sign the bill if it came to his desk.

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  • greg

    Like it or not unions represent the only real form of workers rights that exist. Why would someone not join a union that is at a work place? The only person who would make that statement is someone who (a) never been in a union and has no idea what they do, or (B) doesn’t want to spend the 30 to 100$ a month because they are cheap. The logic here is unreal, get rid of the union because you don’t want to pay your 30$ to 100$ a month in dues, only to have your wages cut back 30% and pay 40% more in health care after the union is gone. Not to mention the price of goods made under union run don’t go down after the union is busted. Example? Look at catepillar… they took peoples promised pension funds and gave them much less , cut wages in half for new employees, increased insurance for everyone, and at the end of that all their equipment went up in price. They even claimed they had no money to pay for everything they promised, only to buy bucyrus? Look at harely, still a union and new workers make much less with much less benefits, yet the bikes cost 5 to 7K more then 10 years ago. The price of everything in this country is high because at one time the money actually went to the workers. Now the money goes to everyone but the workers, and there is a huge push to get rid of anything that would give the workers power. I have yet to see one company that busted a union where workers wages, benefits, work enviroment improved after the fact, or that the price of their product went down. unions still serve a valuable place in this country because companies are far from pro workers rights, and they aren’t required to be by federal laws.

    • Bob

      Greg, no one is being prevented from joining unions. To force someone to join and pay for something they don’t believe in is absurd. If the unions want to act like the mafia, they should be treated like the mafia.

    • R

      Unions aren’t the only real form of worker’s rights. You can file lawsuits if you feel you’re being discriminated against based upon sexuality, gender, age, etc. Breaking down your points about the American worker, they follow as such: (a) A person who wouldn’t join a union because they’re not smart enough to know what’s best for them. (b) A person is too cheap to know what’s best for them.

      I disagree with the fundamental principle of your points on the sole basis that, IF THE UNION IS GOOD FOR THE EMPLOYEES, THEY CAN STILL CONVINCE THE EMPLOYEES TO CONTRIBUTE. Nobody is “busting” anything. If the union can convince the worker of its’ usefulness, it will remain intact.

      And I agree with you, the cost of everything goes up while worker pay remains stagnant or goes down. This is due to the government weakening the value of the dollar through endless QE stimulation, printing money to go straight to wall street. This is a completely different argument though.

    • Mr. Bob

      You greg are the perfect example of a union sheep. They tell you how to think and in exchange for that you give them your hard earned money each month. That is all they do for you greg. Your statement may actually be partially correct, Why would someone not join a union that is at a work place? The only person who would make that statement is someone who (a) never been in a union and has no idea what they do, or (B) doesn’t want to spend the 30 to 100$ a month because they are cheap. Part (a) you are right about but it needs to be clarified a bit. You would never make that statement because you have been in a union and have been brainwashed by that union to give them your hard earned dollars each month because that is how it works. You can brag to everyone how you are a card carrying union member because you long for acceptance even if it costs you $30 – $100 per month. They don’t do anything for you except take your money every month and let you be a member. You are just another union sheep…

  • Berkenshire dragoon yoemanry

    Ah..mattie.. the unions are nothing but the arm of the democratic left liberal machine. The arm was recently changed to a robotic arm and now we have to lay off the unionistas becuase it cost to much to run the arm with all the union demands.

  • biggovhater

    There was a time when this country need unions but now with all the labor laws we have on the books they are not needed. The only people they help is themselves and the democratic party. Forcing people to join a union is really not what this country was founded on.

    • Mr. Bob

      You are correct Biggovhater. The unions need the union sheep to support their lifestyles and the poor union sheep can’t see it. There is indeed a sucker born every minute and the card carrying union sheep are what makes that statement so true!!

  • GodSaveWI

    It is FACT, that in Right to Work States annual incomes are on average $1,500.00 per year less (this figure is adjusted for cost of living btw) than in states that have not enacted it. Right to Work favors business owners, CEO’s and stock holders, not workers. Please stop regurgitating ideologic rhetoric and look at the hard numbers. By rolling over and allowing this to happen you are only hurting yourself, your children, your neighbor and all of Wisconsin. Unless you are in the top income percentiles, Right to Work will only HURT YOU, even if you are not in a union.

    • Mr. Bob

      Because you claim it is a fact that incomes are lower in right to work states we should accept your atatement as true??? What is your proof??
      From 1990-2012 (the latest year data is available), right-to-work states made up 13 of the 20 states with the fastest median household income growth. Of the 15 states that had slower income growth than the national average, which was negative growth overall adjusted for inflation, 10 of them were non-right-to-work states during that period according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

    • Hell in a handbasket

      Fact is Right to Work states have lower unemployment rates than those who don’t. Fact is you reported my comment to Fox 6 so they “moderate it” (I’ll return the favor). Fact is I’m forced be a union member who votes GOP and that bothers you!

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