Region's legislators defend right-to-work votes
By Nora Hertel, Wausau Daily Herald
WAUSAU – The state Assembly passed a right-to-work bill on Friday with a strong partisan split, and that divide was true among north central Wisconsin's legislators with one notable exception in the Senate.
After around 20 hours of debate, the legislation passed 62-35 along party lines, with all Republican representatives backing the bill and all Democrats opposing it.
"While listening to the testimony, it was clear to me that this piece of legislation is about choice," said Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield. He said he attended the bill's hearing with an open mind.
The bill would allow employees to choose not to join a union. Current Wisconsin law allows unions to require membership at work sites where other employees are members.
Up to 3,000 protesters rallied against the bill at the Capitol in Madison in recent weeks.
Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, also said she supported the right-to-work bill because of the choice it provides to workers. The potential law would also help Wisconsin remain competitive against neighboring states, she said.
But Democrat Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, argued that the bill would reduce economic growth, rather than expand it.
I voted against right to work because it drives down wages for everyone. Wisconsin's hard-working families deserve a raise, not a pay cut," Shankland said in a press release Friday. "Right to work will only exacerbate wage inequality in our state."
Republicans Rep. Dave Heaton of Wausau and Nancy VanderMeer of Tomah voted in support of the measure.
The bill passed the state Senate 17-15 on Feb. 25. All Senate Democrats voted against it, including Stevens Point Sen. Julie Lassa.
Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Stettin, was the only Republican in the Legislature to vote against the bill.
"Both sides in the debate have provided economic analysis to support their arguments, but none are definitive as to what actually causes the differences among the economies of different states. I am not convinced that the supposed benefits of passing this bill will materialize and offset a potentially disruptive impact on our economy," Petrowski said in a statement last week.
Wisconsin will be the 25th state to enact such a law.