Right-to-work group launches after governor, legislators say issue not a priority

Mar 03, 2015

RACINE COUNTY — While state government leaders including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos have said right-to-work legislation isn't a priority, a new group launched Monday to "begin the dialogue" on the issue.

The group, Wisconsin Right to Work, will "aggressively promote" such policies, according to a news release. In right-to-work states, businesses and unions cannot make joining a union or paying dues a condition of employment. Less than four years ago, the state passed major reforms for public unions with Act 10, which effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees in Wisconsin.

Vos, R-Rochester, has supported right-to-work but said as recently as last month it was not a priority in the next session. On Monday, Vos said he looked forward to a "healthy

"I have long been a supporter of right-to-work and drafted a proposal in the past" Vos said in an emailed statement. "I look forward to a healthy discussion as the case is made for the benefits of being a right-to-work state."

Opponents say right-to-work legislation would hurt workers and unions. Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, said Gov. Scott Walker pursuing right-to-work would contradict what he said during his campaign, when he downplayed the issue.

"It's the same playbook from four years ago that tore Wisconsin apart," Ross said in a statement. "Gov. Walker says anything to get elected and now he and his Republican front groups are ready to launch a frontal assault on Wisconsin's middle class working women and men."

Vos: Focus is on other reforms

A day after the Nov. 4 election, in which Republicans kept the governor's office and expanded majorities in the Legislature, Vos said the focus would be on other issues when legislators reconvene in January.

"Is it the right time in Wisconsin? Probably not," Vos told reporters. "I have said that consistently throughout the entire process, as someone who supports the bill. I want us to focus on tax reform, regulatory reform, education reform.

"Do I still believe that in the long run those issues will be on the table? I certainly do. They're just not toward the top of my priority list during this session."

A spokeswoman for Walker told the Associated Press the governor's "focus is on growing Wisconsin's economy and creating jobs. Anything that distracts from that is not a priority for him."

Wisconsin Right to Work Executive Director Lorri Pickens said Monday the group's main mission is to bring awareness to the issue. She said she doesn't expect major change to happen overnight.

"Our goal is to begin the dialogue, she said.

Ross also noted Pickens' ties to other conservative organizations. Pickens has served as state director for Americans for Prosperity, the main political advocacy group funded by conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch, according to the Associated Press. She has also worked for groups that supported the 2006 ban on same-sex marriage, the AP reported.

Pickens said Wisconsin Right to Work is a "homegrown" group and not affiliated with any organization. Its goal is to advance freedom in the work force, according to a news release.

"Wisconsin's public employees have already demonstrated their strong desire for their right to choose as evidenced by the sharp decline in enrollment in the teacher's unions since the passage of Governor Walker's Budget Repair Bill," Pickens, referring to Act 10, said in the news release.

SOURCE: Journal Times

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