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Former GOP Leader Slams Walker’s “Right-to-Work” Fast Tracking; $5.8B of Income Could Be Lost; Pair of Major AFL-CIO Rallies Planned

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On Friday, Wisconsin Republicans called for a special session to pass “Right-to-Work” legislation. The bill has been ‘fast-tracked’ by Governor Scott Walker, meaning the public will be unable to comment on the anti-worker bill. 

Not surprisingly, given the nature of Wisconsin politics, the “Right-to-Work” bill being pushed by the state GOP is nearly identical to American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation.  Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who is leading the “Right-to-Work” charge, was the former state chairman of ALEC.  A side-by-side comparison of the dubious bills is provided by PR Watch.

For Walker, the move to co-sponsor the bill is a shift from his original stance that “Right-to-Work” would be a distraction. Walker refused to answer questions about his stance over the weekend at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, DC.  In an emailed statement, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick semi-explained the sudden change:

“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.”

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO quuckly announced two major rallies this week.  The first rally will take place at Capitol Square on Tuesday when the bill is first heard by the Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform.  A second rally will take place on Wednesday when the bill is expected to make it to the Senate floor.  In a post on their website, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO slammed the GOP’s underhanded tactics:

“Republicans are planning to ram this legislation through in an extraordinary session at lightning pace. An extraordinary session changes the rules, limits debate and makes a mockery out of our democracy.  A Right to Work bill could pass both houses and be signed into law by the Governor in days.”

The “Right-to-Work” shift brought about swift condemnation, not only from Democrats and labor officials but some in the GOP as well.  Former Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz told Thinkprogress he believes Walker’s embrace of “Right-to-work” will backfire, saying the governor is “courting civic strife”:

“This is going to hurt Wisconsin employers terribly in the long run, as the workforce gets more angry,” he told ThinkProgress. “I represented a lot of blue-collar labor people, both union and non-union. So I know that even the wages of nonunion workers are determined by collective bargaining. They may not be paying for it, but it has an impact.”

Schultz also took exception to the way the bill was advanced:

“It’s a cowardly move to make certain the public can’t be heard on this issue and rush it through in a special session,” Schultz said. “They ought to be embarrassed or ashamed. I thought they would have at least gone through the trouble of having a sham public hearing, but they don’t even think that’s necessary here.”

The move by Wisconsin Republicans is part of a regional trend for the party. Indiana and Michigan recently went “Right-to-Work”. In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder initially suggested he would not pursue the bill, similar to Walker’s current hoodwink. In Wisconsin, though “Right-to-Work” is not being demanded by voters and is only supported by anti-union actors on the far right such as the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which has labeled the legislation a top priority.  

Speaking to the Associated Press, Dan Bukiewicz, President of the Milwaukee Building-Construction Trades Council, called “Right-to-Work” an “unneeded distraction,” asserted its one-sidedness. “I haven’t heard anybody come out from a business standpoint saying this is what they want,” he said.  “The residual results of this will hurt the citizens of Wisconsin.”

Marquette University economist Abdur Chowdhury recently released a study titled, “The Potential Effects Of A Right To Work Law in Wisconsin.”  He argues that “Right-to-Work” alone will not have a positive effect on the state’s economy. Chowdhury explained his position WUWM, Milwaukee public radio:

“What we found is that right-to-work, by itself, does not create any economic advantage,” Chowdhury says. “What is good for the state is its overall business package. For example, if we have an overall business package that helps to attract business, increase workers wages - that would be good for the state. But just concentrating on a right-to-work law would be a mistake.”
“The reason to have a right-to-work law is more political than economic…there simply is no economic reason to argue for a right-to-work law at this point for Wisconsin.”

In what he calls a “conservative calculation” (no pun intended), Chowdhury estimates that “Right-to-Work” will cause an $5.8 billion loss of direct and indirect net income annually.  The state of Wisconsin will lose $234 million in income tax revenues per year, he said.


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