Wisconsin Republicans plan to push right-to-work bill next week

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 20, 2015 1:55 PM

By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin Republicans plan to call an extraordinary session to fast-track a right-to-work bill in the state legislature next week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told a Milwaukee radio station on Friday.

Governor Scott Walker, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, supports the policy and will sign it into law if the bill makes it to his desk, a spokeswoman said Friday.

So-called right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to join and financially support a union - such as by paying dues - as a condition of their employment.

The announcement drew immediate criticism from Democrats and a union leader in Wisconsin, where Republican lawmakers in 2011 approved restrictions on collective bargaining for most public-sector unions except police and fire amid large demonstrations.

"We are ready to go," Fitzgerald told radio station WTMJ.

Fitzgerald said he planned to unveil a right-to-work proposal on Friday afternoon for the majority Republican state Senate, which could approve it by the middle of next week to move it along to the state Assembly.

Republicans' control of both sides of the Wisconsin Legislature and the governor's mansion leaves a clear path for passage of right-to-work legislation, which is already law in two dozen states, including nearby Michigan and Indiana.

Speaker Robin Vos said the Assembly would take up the bill once it is approved by the state Senate.

Supporters of right-to-work legislation say it gives workers the choice whether or not to join a union, and perhaps more importantly, whether to pay membership dues, promoting liberty.

Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, said that a right-to-work law would not create jobs and would lower wages for all workers in the state.

"Rushing this legislation through in an extraordinary session is a slap in the face to our democracy," Neuenfeldt said in a statement.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Leslie Adler)