Andy Jorgensen: Right-to-work is a fraud that legislators must stop

Mar 02, 2015

On Monday, Jan. 19, our nation paused to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King has a place among the great orators of American history because so many of his words still hold meaning—and bear repeating—in society today.

While his speeches on civil rights are the most often quoted, Dr. King also warned in 1961 against so-called right-to-work proposals, saying, “Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer.”

He was right, of course.

Consider the case of Oklahoma, one of the more recent states to adopt right-to-work, in 2001. Since that time, the state has lost 73,000 manufacturing jobs—more than half its factory jobs. And, Oklahoma has seen a one-third decline in new manufacturing business growth.

Clearly, so-called right-to-work is not an economic engine. In fact, many of the business leaders who employ union workers here in Wisconsin say right-to-work will hurt them. More than 350 Wisconsin businesses have formed the Wisconsin Contractor Coalition to publicly oppose the idea, even though a bill has not yet been introduced. The impressive list includes major employers in my neck of the woods, such as J.P. Cullen & Sons and Rock Road Cos. of Janesville. Bill Kennedy, president of Rock Road Cos., is serving on the coalition’s board of directors.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my eight years as a lawmaker, it’s that people like me don’t have all the answers. Good legislators listen to the people they’ve been elected to serve. On this issue, we must listen—and what I hear is opposition.

Business leaders tell me that right-to-work will interfere with their existing contracts—and that will cost them. You see, businesses—particularly in construction—choose to work with unions because unions provide skilled labor, safety training, health care and other benefits. In essence, unions streamline the hiring process and human resources side of their businesses.

Thoughtful taxpayers have concerns, too. Unions provide the training and apprenticeship opportunities that Wisconsin workers need to get jobs in high-demand industries. If the private money that unions use to run these programs dries up, the burden will fall to our technical colleges, costing all of us.

And, of course, workers tell me right-to-work will make it harder for them to earn living wages, get health care coverage and support their families. Unions add value to their lives, too.

So, as I see it, right-to-work is a lose-lose-lose situation.

That’s how Dr. King saw it. On that day in 1961, he raised his voice against so-called right-to-work, saying, “We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”

Still today, I hear his call to action. I hear my district’s opposition. And I will vote against right-to-work, should it come before me.

Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, represents Wisconsin’s 43rd Assembly District. Readers can contact him at P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708; phone 888-534-0043; email

Source: Gazette Extra

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