Local lawmakers speak out on right-to-work bill
By Jessica Bringe, WEAU-TV (Eau Claire)
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Local lawmakers are speaking out after hours of debate, some praising the right-to-work proposal and others warning that it could hurt families across the state.
The bill passed the Wisconsin State Assembly on a straight party line vote, Friday morning. The vote was 62 to 35.
Wisconsin's Senate approved the measure late last month.
Debating went on for nearly 20 straight hours before the State Assembly passed the bill shortly after 9a.m.
The bill would prevent private unionized businesses from reaching deals requiring all workers to pay union dues.
All republicans were in favor.
Rep. Robin Vos (R-Racine) said, "All it is, is giving people who want to join a union the freedom to say, I'm going to stay in or I'm going to go based on what I believe is best for me, my family, and the job that the union is doing."
Rep. Bob Kulp (R-Stratford) added, "We weren't diminishing the unions because the strong unions will increase in membership."
While, all democrats were against the bill.
Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) said, "This bill is going to make it harder, it's going to harm the middle class. This is going to slid all of us backwards. This is not just a union issue, this is a middle class hard-working people issue."
Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said, "We're putting forward an agenda, as you know, to try and make sure we have high skills for our works. To make sure they're in vibrant wages, and that we provide economic opportunities for people to go to work."
WEAU's political analyst, John Frank says, for private unionized businesses concerns over the measure passing stem from so called, 'free riders' impairing their power base.
Frank said, “This doesn't prohibit unions from organizing and collectively bargaining, but what they're concerned about is some people will say, 'Well, gee, why should I join? I'll get the benefits anyway.'
Frank says it could have major consequences. “That's going to hit unions in terms of their financial resources, maybe their financial stability,” he explained.
Assemblyman, Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), expressed concern over the bill in a statement, saying, "This bill does nothing to stimulate the economy or create jobs in Wisconsin. In fact, it will hurt working families, make wages lower, and decimate workplace safety and security.”
However, Assemblywoman Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie), says differently.
“I'm just confident that it will help bring in more jobs and I'm confident that they'll be good paying jobs," said Bernier.
Bernier believes every worker has a constitutional right to choose whether to participate in unions.
But, whether the bill will have positive or negative effects for the state, Frank says, remains to be seen.
“You've had people who have made arguments on both sides and this is one of those things where, literally only time will tell,” said Frank.
Now the bill heads to Gov. Walker's desk. He says he'll sign it into law early Monday morning, in Brown Deer, which is a Milwaukee suburb.
Frank says once passed, there will need to be a period of adjustment for all unionized businesses.