BROWN DEER (WITI/AP) — Governor Scott Walker on Monday, March 9th signed a Right-to-Work bill into law, striking another blow against organized labor four years after effectively ending collective bargaining for public-sector workers. The controversial bill makes it a crime for businesses and labor unions to force employees to pay union dues -- essentially weakening unions in private businesses.
Governor Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, signed the bill Monday morning at Badger Meter in Brown Deer. The new law takes effect immediately. During the signing, Walker was surrounded by company officials and others who supported the divisive proposal, including Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
"It sends a powerful message across the country and around the world," Governor Walker said.
Governor Walker says he strategically chose Badger Meter for the signing.
"This is one more big tool to help places like Badger Meter -- where they can put jobs anywhere around the world that Wisconsin is the right place, because Wisconsin once again is showing we are open for business," Governor Walker said.
"In all of our facilities except this one, our workers have the right to chose whether or not to belong to a union, but not here in Brown Deer because Wisconsin has not been a freedom to work state," Badger Meter President and CEO Rich Meeusen said.
Meeusen says the Right-to-Work bill will help them to be competitive. He says it will lead to more hires, and it will not mean less pay -- although opponents still think otherwise.
Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) says he agrees Right-to-Work could make Wisconsin more competitive, both nationally and globally, but he says maybe not in a positive way.
"If you want a high quality, highly educated workforce, highly focused, that`s the direction we had been focused. This really puts the brakes on that and moves us in the other direction. They decided to plow over the voices of Wisconsin who are going to see their wages decline, who are going to see workplace protections go away and who are going to see profits move to the top," Senator Larson said.
The Right-to-Work bill passed the Assembly on a party line vote last week.
Monday's ceremony came after Walker spent the weekend in Iowa. He's scheduled to be in New Hampshire (another early presidential primary state) this weekend.
Reaction has been flowing in since Monday morning's signing.
Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO said the following in a statement:
“By signing Right to Work into law, Gov. Walker continues his crusade on the hard-working, middle-class families of Wisconsin. From refusing to expand BadgerCare for the sick, to enacting tax cuts for the rich, gutting education and eroding collective bargaining rights – Gov. Walker has shown a true disregard for Wisconsin families who work hard every day to put food on the table and a roof over their head. How can anyone who isn’t a special interest bankrolling politicians’ campaigns get ahead in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin?”
The Wisconsin Teamsters have issued this statement:
"Today, Teamsters across Wisconsin condemned Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to sign a right-to-work bill into law despite widespread opposition to the legislation. Wisconsin Teamsters joined with other labor unions to protest the passage of the bill in the senate and assembly, participating in the more than two weeks of protests that took place outside the state capitol in Madison.
With Walker signing the bill into law, Wisconsin becomes the 25th state to adopt right-to-work laws, furthering the agenda of right-wing special interests whose only goal is to weaken unions.
“Gov. Walker has done a great disservice to every working man and woman in the state of Wisconsin today,” said Wayne Schultz, President of Teamsters Joint Council 39 in Milwaukee, Wisc. “This fight does not end today – we will continue to fight in any way can to rid our state of this destructive law.”
The right-to-work legislation was fast-tracked through the senate and assembly due to the efforts of the Koch Brothers and their anti-worker allies who are working behind the scenes in states across the country to pass these destructive laws.
“We must all continue to be engaged in the political process so we can keep the fight alive,” said Bill Carroll, Political Liaison for Joint Council 39. “We have the power of numbers – every working man and woman and every union member in Wisconsin must stand together to stop the continued erosion of our rights and our way of life by outside special interests.”
Robert Kraig with Citizen Action Wisconsin issued this statement:
"Today Governor Scott Walker signed so-called Right to Work legislation at the headquarters of Badger Meter, a company with a record of outsourcing Wisconsin jobs to Mexico while also benefiting from public development investments. Its CEO recently threatened to outsource 100 more jobs from Wisconsin if he did not get his way on the legislation. Governor Walker’s privatized jobs agency, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), has not closed loopholes which permit public economic development dollar to go to companies engaged in outsourcing.
“It is fitting that Walker would sign a piece of legislation designed to undermine the right of workers to band together and have a voice in their own economic futures at the headquarters of a multinational corporation engaged in outsourcing jobs,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Walker’s economic policy is based on the blind trust of corporate CEOs who sell out working families. This misguided policy undermines the true source of prosperity, good jobs which give families the economic means to spend money in their communities.”
In response to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s signing of 'right to work' legislation today, Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04) issued the following statement:
“In the ongoing assault on Wisconsin’s working class, Governor Walker signed another crippling anti-worker bill into law. This so-called ‘right to work’ legislation is nothing but a bald-faced attempt by our Republican Governor and legislature to protect special interests at the expense of working class families. I am reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King who once said, ‘In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.’
During his re-election campaign, Governor Walker made numerous claims that he would refrain from pushing for such legislation in his new term. Instead of keeping that promise, Governor Walker once again broke his word and asked the Republican-controlled legislature to ‘fast-track’ their 'right to work' bill. In addition to hurting his already damaged credibility, this unprecedented move made it possible for Republicans to limit the amount of time available to opposition groups to organize against the bill. Limiting transparency and public dialogue with this approach goes against the fundamentals of our democracy and further exposes the Governor’s utter lack of respect for his constituents.
Unions have been a vital source of economic strength for Wisconsin and the nation. They have given workers a collective voice to fight against unfair business practices by companies that prioritize profit over employees. While I am greatly distressed over the actions taken today by the Governor and state legislature, it only strengthens my resolve to continue our fight for fair treatment of the working class. As the backbone of our nation, our working families deserve better.”
Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) issued this statement:
"Governor Scott Walker has signed the Right-To-Work bill, which protects employees by prohibiting them from being forced to join a union and pay dues as a condition of their employment.
Wisconsin becomes the 25th Right-To-Work state…and Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) says the law will improve our business climate and trigger economic growth. “States such as Indiana and Michigan have seen increases in the number of manufacturing jobs after passing Right-To-Work laws. So there is evidence it will help attract new businesses and additional jobs to our state. As companies consider where they might move or grow, Wisconsin needs to be an integral part of the conversation so we can bring more good-paying jobs to the hard-working people of the Badger State.”
There have been a few instances of erroneous reporting by media outlets on Right-To-Work.
It’s important to remind Wisconsinites that this law does not prohibit workers from joining a union. It ensures that workers have the individual freedom to decide whether to join or not join a union. Right-To-Work does not eliminate existing unions, does not void existing labor contracts, does not prohibit collective bargaining and does not prohibit workers from organizing a union.
Businesses in states outside of Wisconsin that are considering relocation care a great deal about Right-To-Work. Wisconsin workers should expect to see more opportunity ahead,” said Vukmir."
Kurt Bauer, President and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce issued this statement:
"Governor Walker has put our state on the national landscape for job creation and business expansion by signing Right to Work legislation today. Governor Walker's visionary leadership on reforming government unions, and now providing workplace freedom to private sector workers, has made our state a national leader in expanding economic freedom and prosperity for our citizens.
Combined with tax relief, regulation relief and lawsuit reform, the Walker era is an era of growth, hope and opportunity that has seen job creation go up and unemployment go down.
We need to compete with our industrial competitors in the Upper Midwest. We hope to see Wisconsin compete and beat other states for jobs in the future with this reform."
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce VP of Government Relations Scott Manley issued this statement:
"Wisconsin is truly open for business. Site selectors frequently just skip states that are not Right to Work. This reform puts us on the map for job creators."
Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Committee, has released the following statement regarding Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signing a bill enacting a private-sector Right to Work law:
“Congratulations to Wisconsin in becoming America’s 25th Right to Work state. Despite the loud and apoplectic cries of union officials, Right to Work is simply an application to labor law of the First Amendment freedoms that are a bedrock of our republic. The First Amendment right for Wisconsin’s private-sector workers to refrain from union membership and dues payments is long overdue.
We hope today will put pressure on the remaining holdouts in the Midwest who continue to permit workers to be fired simply for refusing to pay money to a union they don’t support. Every worker deserves freedom of choice when it comes to union membership and dues payment, and if states like Michigan and Wisconsin can pass Right to Work then Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio can too.
Wisconsin workers are now free from being forced to pay union dues or fees to get or keep a job. If workers have any questions about the law and how to exercise their rights under it, they can call the National Right to Work Foundation at 1-800-336-3600.”
Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) issued this statement:
“I am extremely disappointed that Governor Walker signed this horribly regressive bill into law today, which will have a negative impact on Wisconsin’s working families. Less than one year ago, Governor Walker called RTW a distraction, not a priority, and said that he would do everything in his power to prevent the bill from getting to his desk. But now, shortly after being sworn into his second term, he flip flopped on the issue and betrayed the people that elected him. Worse, he refused to listen to thousands of citizens and hundreds of business leaders who oppose this law. To add injury to insult, after signing RTW into law, the governor refused to answer any questions from the media. Unfortunately, this refusal to take ownership for his backwards priorities is becoming an all too common frustration from the citizens of Wisconsin.
Let me quickly remind everyone what we saw during the senate committee process. We know that most, if not all, of the speakers in favor of this dangerous bill had received money from the ultra-conservative Bradley Foundation. We also know there were no local chambers of commerce, individual businesses, or union workers who came out in favor of RTW. In fact, in the Senate alone, there were 1,751 speakers and registrants in opposition to the bill and less than 3% in support.
The facts are, states with RTW laws have lower worker wages, diminished worker health and safety, and, at the same time, increased poverty and workplace fatalities. In addition, eight of the 12 states with the highest unemployment rates are RTW states, What’s more, by WMC’s own admission, less than 7% of their members came out in favor of this regressive legislation. Wisconsin businesses recognize how damaging this bill is. We even heard from a coalition of more than 440 local businesses who oppose this law and know firsthand the value of working in collaboration with workers not against them.
We also know that the governor and Republicans were unable and unwilling to answer important questions about provisions of the bill – such as how players on the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers (who belong to unions) would be prevented from being charged with a class A misdemeanor, which could lead to up to nine months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. They refused to tell the public if this legislation would jeopardize federal transportation dollars. Under federal law, transit employees are required to maintain certain benefits, like collective bargaining. It is unclear if RTW will violate federal law as some transit systems are operated privately and employ private labor unions. They even refused to share who in our state had requested this legislation.
So once again, Republicans have decided to fast-track legislation, and put the priorities of Koch brothers, regressive think tanks, and corporate special interests before the people of Wisconsin.
This is a sad day for Wisconsin and puts us in the race to the bottom. The governor’s actions are simply wrong for Wisconsin.”
UFCW Local 1473 issued this statement:
“Just days after comparing union members to foreign terrorists and four years after limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees, Governor Scott Walker today signed legislation that will lower wages and standards for workers across the State of Wisconsin.
This is a sad day for our state. Right to Work is a ploy to take away the voice of workers. From refusing to expand BadgerCare for the sick, to enacting tax cuts for the rich, gutting education, slashing funding for State parks, stripping the Natural Resources Board’s authority and consolidating control over the environment into the hands of a few hand-picked politicians and eroding collective bargaining rights for working people – Gov. Walker has shown a true disregard for Wisconsin families. It does nothing to create jobs, attract businesses, or grow the economy. In fact, when it comes to overall quality of life, Right to Work states rank among the worst.
This is a transparent attempt to gut private sector unions in the State of Wisconsin. But we at UFCW Local 1473 remain optimistic. By signing Right to Work, Gov. Walker continues to tip the scales against working class families in favor of his out of state millionaire and billionaire buddies who fund his campaign. Gov. Walker’s political stock amongst the campaign funding elite may be rising, but it is the people of Wisconsin who are paying the price of his unchecked political ambition. UFCW Local 1473 members understand that workers in unions earn higher wages, receive better benefits, and have more job security. In addition, women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBT workers all have far more protections in a union. In other words, our members know from experience the inherent value of their union contract.
Wisconsin citizens should ask the Governor, who called for this Right to Work law? Not workers and not our State’s employers who went on record to acknowledge the value unions bring to their companies. It’s time Scott Walker wakes up from his dream of higher office long enough to remember who he took an oath to serve – the working families of Wisconsin not extremist out-of-state donors.
Today Governor Walker placed himself on the wrong side of history. Collective action is on the rise. From retail stores to meatpacking plants to public schools and ports, workers are standing together and demanding respect on the job. This law will only embolden our movement to organize more workers, bargain better contracts, and hold the corporations and politicians that seek to destroy us accountable. UFCW Local 1473 and all of labor will emerge from this stronger and more united than ever.”
President Barack Obama has issued this statement:
"It’s no coincidence that the rise of the middle class in America coincided in large part with the rise of unions – workers who organized together for higher wages, better working conditions, and the benefits and protections that most workers take for granted today. So it’s inexcusable that, over the past several years, just when middle-class families and workers need that kind of security the most, there’s been a sustained, coordinated assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government.
So I’m deeply disappointed that a new anti-worker law in Wisconsin will weaken, rather than strengthen workers in the new economy. Wisconsin is a state built by labor, with a proud pro-worker past. So even as its governor claims victory over working Americans, I’d encourage him to try and score a victory for working Americans – by taking meaningful action to raise their wages and offer them the security of paid leave. That’s how you give hardworking middle-class families a fair shot in the new economy – not by stripping their rights in the workplace, but by offering them all the tools they need to get ahead."
- Right-to-Work Frequently-Asked Questions
- Explanation: What exactly is Right-to-Work legislation?
- “Right-to-Work” states map
- READ IT: Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce testimony on Right-to-Work
- “The political center of the universe:” What lies ahead for politics in Wisconsin in 2015?