Wis. state Rep. Chris Kapenga said he will introduce a right-to-work-for-less bill in the next legislative session, and longtime conservative activist Lorri Pickens launched “Wisconsin Right to Work” Dec. 1, an organization devoted to lobbying for the anti-union legislation in the coming year.
Pickens is the former associate state director for Americans for Prosperity’s Wisconsin chapter. AFP is an ultra-conservative lobbying group funded by billionaires David and Charles Koch to promote the brothers’ anti-union agenda.
Brenden Fischer at the Center for Media and Democracy reports:
The Kochs and AFP have spent over millions in recent years in support of Wisconsin's GOP leadership. AFP was very active in providing astroturf or phony grassroots support for right-to-work when the state of Michigan took it up.
The Wisconsin Republican Party made strong gains on election day, Nov. 4. Gov. Scott Walker was re-elected by a comfortable margin and the party increased its majorities in the state assembly to its largest in more than 50 years.
| Activists protest Gov. Scott Walker’s stripping of collective bargaining rights for public employees in 2011.
Walker has said he doesn’t consider right-to-work a priority, but he, along with GOP leaders in the state Assembly and Senate are all on record as supporting it. Walker co-sponsored a right-to-work bill as a freshman legislator in 1993, while Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he’s looking forward to debating the benefits of it in the coming year.
In 2011, Walker pushed through Act 10, which all but eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees and set off a firestorm of protest throughout the state. Many critics warn that right-to-work could be even more divisive.
The Sheboygan Press wrote in an editorial:
The GOP may not be up to another fight with unions … 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.
Studies have shown that right-to-work laws have little to no effect on a state’s business climate or unemployment rate. What they have been proven to do is drive down wages. Workers living in right-to-work states earn about $1,500 less per year than workers in states without these laws.
Kevin Gundlach, president of the South Central Federation of Labor, which represents the Madison region, told the Center for Media and Democracy:
All year-round, we knock on doors in south central Wisconsin and we ask people what is on their minds. Never have I heard anyone say 'we need right-to-work'. People are worried about low wages, health care, benefits and making ends meet in this economy. Right-to-work will take us in the opposite direction from where people want to go.