Keep right-to-work legislation off the table in Wisconsin
Mar 03, 2015
It should come as little surprise that a conservative group is pushing to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state. The political winds are blowing in the right direction.
Wisconsin Right to Work is a natural offshoot of Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker's signature legislation that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers.
Walker has not proposed making Wisconsin a right-to-work state, saying there are more pressing priorities, but has not said he would veto such legislation if it happened to come his way. Walker easily won re-election in November, and a Republican majority in the state Legislature increased as well.
That makes conditions ripe for right-to-work efforts, and the new group led by conservative activist Lorri Pickens promises to "aggressively promote" that agenda.
Right-to-work laws guarantee that no person can be compelled to join — or not join — a union as a condition of employment. Workers also cannot be forced to pay union dues in right-to-work states.
Proponents of such laws say people should have the freedom to choose union membership, and that forced unionism is a form of financial coercion.
Opponents claim right-to-work laws are blatant attempts to weaken unions, and that workers should pay their fair share if they are to obtain union benefits. Failure to do so amounts to a free ride for non-paying workers, opponents argue.
The pros and cons have been debated since the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 outlawed the "closed" shop, in which employees at unionized workplaces must be members of the union as a condition of employment. Before Taft-Hartley, employees could be fired for leaving unions, either voluntarily or through expulsion.
Currently, 24 states have right-to-work laws in place. The most recent to join the list were Michigan and Indiana, in 2012.
Wisconsin is among the 26 states that are not right-to-work. State GOP leaders, including Walker, donate seem inclined to push right-to-work legislation. Walker has recently called it a "distraction." Assembly Speaker Robin Vos supports the concept, but said he won't pursue legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he is open to right-to-work legislation only if other leaders, including Walker, concur.
The GOP may not be up to another fight with unions. It has already won a major battle by weakening public unions through Act 10. Taking on private-sector unions may not be in its best interests — at least for now. The party does not need to risk potential political repercussions now that it is firmly in control of state government.
GOP leaders survived, but can still recall the Capitol demonstrations, recall elections and general political turmoil that surrounded passage of Act 10. To avoid a repeat, party leaders would be wise to keep right-to-work legislation off the table.
Source: HTR News