Madison, Wis. – More than 2,000 people rallied at the state capitol building Feb. 24, protesting right-to-work legislation that would weaken the ability of workers to collectively bargain.
A right-to-work bill was pushed out of a Senate committee that day, with Republican lawmakers promising to get it on Gov. Scott Walker’s desk by the end of the week.
Walker, who previously dismissed right-to-work as a distraction, says he will sign it into law.
“Right-to-work is part of a national anti-worker agenda that won’t bring one job to the state or help a single family put food on the table,” said Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO.
Right-to-work laws weaken workers’ ability to collectively bargain by making it harder for unions to collect dues, driving down wages and benefits. The average worker in a right-to-work state makes $1,500 less a year than their counterparts in union-friendly states.
Employees in pro-worker states are also more likely to have job-based health benefits.
Ed Pilkington from the Guardian reports that the Wisconsin bill is almost a verbatim copy of model legislation developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a secretive ultra-right wing think tank that provides model bills on everything from eliminating safety regulations to anti-worker bills like right-to-work and anti-prevailing wage legislation.
Union members and their supporters plan to maintain a mass presence in Madison throughout the week. Some employers have also voiced their displeasure with right-to-work.
James Hoffman, president of Hoffman Construction Co., told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the change to state labor law could devastate his business.
He says if employees can opt out of paying union fees, union-sponsored training programs will suffer. And that means less skilled workers for his company.
“Why are you doing this to my company,” he asked state Republicans.
IBEW members throughout that state are mobilizing to defeat right-to-work – from sending members to the state capitol to writing letters and making phone calls to their legislators.
Go to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO’s webpage for more information on how to get involved.