December 8, 2014

The Right to Work for Less

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald indicated that Wisconsin Republicans are considering fast-tracking “Right to Work” legislation. “Right-to-Work-for-Less” legislation prevents employers and employees from negotiating an agreement, commonly known as a union security clause. The clause requires all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement to pay their fair share for representation, through union dues. “Right-to-Work-for-Less” legislation requires unions to represent every eligible employee, even if he or she does not pay dues. Put more plainly, “Right-to-Work-for-Less” laws allow workers who do not financially contribute to the union to reap the benefits of union membership, on the dime of those who do contribute.

This assault on worker’s right is nothing new in Wisconsin. In 2011 Governor Walker pushed through Act 10, which effectively ended collective bargaining for most public-sector workers. That was the first step in series of calculated moves to make Wisconsin a “Right-to-Work-for-Less” state. While in a recent statement, Governor Walker has called “Right-to-Work” legislation a distraction, Senator Fitzgerald's seems determined to push it anyway.

Instead of focusing on partisan policies, we need to be focused on the many economic challenges we face as the state. Challenges like the looming 2.2 billion dollar deficit, stagnant job growth, and raising working families out of poverty. What we know is, “Right-to-Work-for-Less” legislation lowers wages, reduces safety, and increase the number of uninsured workers. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, the average worker in states with right to work laws makes $1,540 a year less than workers in other states. “Right-to-work-for-Less” laws put workers at risk; the rate of workplace deaths is 36 percent higher in states with these laws. It creates larger pools uninsured workers because employers in “Right-to-Work- for-Less” states are less likely to offer health insurance coverage.

Wisconsinites are ALREADY free to work wherever they want and to join a union or not. That’s the law. Real freedom is about having a voice in the workplace, being able to speak out and having your opinions heard and acted upon. We need to focus on legislation that’s protects these freedoms instead of protecting big multi-national corporations, who ship jobs overseas and offshore their profits to avoid paying taxes, shifting the burden to the rest of us. I am resolved to continue fighting for working families and opposing any attempt to take Wisconsin backwards with nonsensical legislation. I encourage the Governor to end the economic uncertainty by promising to veto any “Right to Work for Less” proposal that reaches his desk.