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Tunes They Are A-Changin’: WI GOP Begins “Right-to-Work” Rollout After Suggesting It Wouldn’t

The Crusaders

The Crusaders

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Wisconsin State Rep. Chris Kapenga has announced that he will introduce a “Right-to-Work” bill in the upcoming legislative session.  The move comes just days after a former Americans for Prosperity associate, Lorri Pickens, announced a new organization, “Wisconsin Right to Work.”.  Rep. Kapenga says he does not know exactly when he will bring forward the bill, but that he is working toward a timeline with the Assembly GOP Caucus.  

In a telephone interview with the Associated Press, Kapenga said: “It’s the right direction to go.  I’m convinced this is a very important piece of continuing growth in the state.”

House Speaker Robin Vos has suggested in the past that “Right-to-Work” would not be on the party’s agenda during the two-year legislative session beginning in January.  However, following the announcement of “Wisconsin Right to Work” and Kapenga’s pledge, Vos changed his tune.  In a statement released Monday, Vos said that “he looked forward to discussing the benefits of becoming a right-to-work state.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has not yet taken a clear stance though earlier this week he said “he was open to the idea.”

Gov. Scott Walker is sticking to his talking point on the matter, saying “Right-to-Work isn’t a priority.”  His spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, added that, “Walker is focused on creating jobs and anything that distracts from that goal isn’t a priority.”   It should be noted that this was the same exact position taken by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in the weeks leading up to his state’s shift to “Right-to-Work.”   In 1993, as a freshmen assemlby member, Walker co-sponsered “Right-to-Work” legislation.

Republican leaders may be bobbing and weaving in the press, but top Democrats are taking a hardline stand.  Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said he hoped Republicans would decide against bringing the bill to the table. He predicted mass protests not unlike those following the governor’s notorious introduction of Act 10 in 2011.  Barca told CBS 58 that Democrats would do anything they could to slow down the bill and said it, “could very well be this session’s Act 10”:

“There’s no question that right-to-work is a significant issue,” Barca said. “To further polarize the state at this time would be extremely harmful. I certainly hope they would not want to put the state through that.”

For the state’s unions, the sound of “Right-to-Work” in the news cycle may as well be a war drum. Their main goal now must be informing the general public of how “Right-to-Work” will affect wages before the state’s well-funded right wing can get misinformation to the masses. Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, told the Journal-Sentinel:

“Wisconsin is powered by our middle class — by the nurses, steel workers, teachers and construction workers who help shape our future, keep us safe and drive our economy. Right to Work would roll back the clock on workers’ rights and take Wisconsin in the wrong direction.”


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