Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) has stated that he has other priorities besides passing right-to-work legislation. Nevertheless, on Friday, a spokesman for Walker, declared that the Governor would sign into law a controversial right-to-work measure if and when it hits his desk. Walker spokesman Laurel Hardy issued a statement Friday that read, in part:
Governor Walker continues to focus on budget priorities to grow our economy and to streamline state government. With that said, Governor Walker co-sponsored right-to-work legislation as a lawmaker and supports the policy. If this bill makes it to his desk, Governor Walker will sign it into law.
Republican lawmakers intend to hold an extraordinary session next week to push through a proposal that would ban employers from requiring union membership as a condition of employment. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) believes he has the votes to pass the measure, and get it to Walker’s desk, by the end of next week.
Governor Walker has long been a foe of organized labor. In 2011, the controversial Governor stripped most public union employees of collective bargaining rights, setting off massive protests around the state. Outraged citizens organized a recall effort against the Governor, though he ultimately prevailed in the ensuing recall election.
With Republicans now in firm control of both houses of the Wisconsin legislature and the Governor’s mansion, the right-to-work law is almost certain to become law. 24 U.S. States, mostly in the low-wage South and Interior West, are already right-to-work states. The Northeast and Midwest, areas with historically strong labor movements, have, until recently, been union strongholds that have resisted right-to-work legislation.
However, the recent Tea Party ascendancy in the Midwest has permitted GOP legislatures to impose right-to-work laws in the Industrial heart of America. Indiana became a right-to-work state in 2012. Indiana’s law was reaffirmed by the state’s Supreme Court in November of 2014. Michigan passed a right-to-work law in 2013. A court rejected a challenge to that law, in February 2015.
While the term right-to-work implies freedom, what the legislation actually does is undermine worker pay. They also allow non-union members to accrue benefits won by unions, without paying union dues. Because federal law requires unions to represent all workers covered by a contract, including those who do not pay for union representation, right-to-work laws essentially reward freeloaders. The freeloaders get the benefits obtained by a union contract, without paying their share for the union representation.
Wisconsin residents who voted Republican, and those who didn’t bother to vote at all, will bear the consequences of their decisions, when the states wages stagnate or decline. Scott Walker has positioned himself as an enemy of American workers, but Wisconsin voters have continued to reward him for waging war on the unions that fight to protect worker pay.
Now that their Governor has his sights on becoming the Republican nominee for President, he is likely to amp up his war against factory workers, school teachers, and nurses. Tea Party voters like a guy who isn’t afraid to attack the underdog. Scott Walker has shown that he loves being that guy. Hopefully, the rest of America will wake up to the danger of a Scott Walker Presidency, and not succumb to the voter slumber that has turned the Badger State into a nightmare for ordinary working folks.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.