Late Wednesday night, the Wisconsin state Senate voted 17–15 to advance a “right to work” bill that has been widely criticized as harmful to the working families of the state. Thousands rallied outside the Capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday in opposition to the legislation, as similar laws have been shown to have widespread negative effects in the other states that have passed them. Republicans Fast Tracked the bill in order to limit public discussion and feedback, and the bill is expected to be voted on by the state Assembly next week. If it passes, it will be sent to Gov. Scott Walker (R) who has indicated he will sign it.
Republicans Fast Tracked the bill in order to limit public discussion and feedback, and the bill is expected to be voted on by the state Assembly next week. If it passes, it will be sent to Gov. Scott Walker (R) who has indicated he will sign it.
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt, expressed dismay over Republicans ignoring the will of the people:
Republican senators clearly weren’t there to listen to their constituents or vote in the best interests of all Wisconsinites. With out-of-state special interests calling the shots, Wisconsin citizens get left behind. Right to work is a continuation of the destructive policies of the Scott Walker administration that have cost Wisconsin jobs and economic opportunity.
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale echoed those comments:
Despite hours and hours of testimony on how right to work will lower wages, increase workplace deaths and erode the base of the middle class by crippling the ability of workers to team up and join together through their unions for a strong voice in the workplace, Republican senators rammed right to work legislation through the Senate in a disheartening move to democracy.
Wisconsin’s working families aren’t allowing Walker and his allies to silence them. They will rally again on Saturday at noon to make sure their voices are heard and will be out in force for a scheduled committee meeting on Tuesday and an expected floor vote in the Assembly on Thursday.
State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D) summed up the effects of the bill: “This bill is going to drive down family wages. Period.” UAW member John Drew condemned the legislation as “a political attack on labor, dressed up as an issue of worker freedom. They want to beat us down, brothers and sisters. This is politics, pure and simple.”
Republican leaders couldn’t even convince all of the members of their own party of the merits of the legislation. State Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R) voted against the bill: “I am not convinced that the supposed benefits of passing this bill will materialize and offset a potentially disruptive impact on our economy.” He was the only Republican who stood and spoke in support of the legislation. The public wasn’t convinced, either. More than 1,750 Wisconsinites submitted comments or registered to speak against the bill at the hearing. Only 25 were in favor.
Unions representing Wisconsin’s professional athletes also weighed in, opposing right to work. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) issued a strong statement:
The NFL Players Association stands together with the working families of Wisconsin and organized labor in their fight against current attacks against their right to stand together as a team.
Devoted food and commercial workers who spend their Sundays servicing our players and fans at Lambeau Field will have their well-being and livelihood jeopardized by right to work. Governor Scott Walker may not value these vital employees but, as union members, we do. We understand how devastating it would be if they lost the ability to have their workplace conditions and wages guaranteed through collective bargaining. We do not have to look any further than our own [collective bargaining agreement] to see that a band of workers, joined together as a union, can overcome decades of poor workplace conditions and drastically improve pensions and benefits.
The Major League Baseball Players Association stands with our brothers and sisters in organized labor and deplores the current attempts in Wisconsin to undermine the collective voices of working people by seeking passage of so-called “right to work” legislation. We are proud to be among the ranks of labor unions that negotiate the terms and conditions of employment for their members, sitting across the table from management as equal parties under the federal law that guarantees the right to union representation. This state legislation is nothing more than an obvious attempt to undermine those rights and that power.
The current bill would impede the ability of working families in Wisconsin to achieve fair collective bargaining agreements with good wages and appropriate on the job protections. “Right to work” is not about freedom, it is about empowering employers at the expense of the employees. Again, we urge a No vote on the current legislation.
Wisconsin isn’t the only state where extremists are pushing right to work legislation in an attempt to silence working families. New Mexico’s legislature is headed down the same destructive path as are several other states.
The news from Wisconsin, during Gov. Scott Walker’s era, is once again bad for working families. The legislature is not only planning to introduce “right to work” legislation this week, it intends to Fast Track it, and Walker said he intends to sign it. Before we get into the reasons why right to work is wrong for Wisconsin (and everywhere else), here are a few steps you can take right now if you care about the future of Wisconsin and its workers.
Public testimony begins Tuesday on the right to work legislation. If you can, attend and speak up.
Attend one of the Madison rallies on Tuesday or Wednesday this week. Learn more.
You can follow the rallies and the story on Twitter with the hashtags: #wipolitics, #righttowork and#wiunion. If you need more information before participating, here are eight reasons why right to work is bad for Wisconsin’s working families. Right to work laws:
1. Make it easier for CEOs to cut health and safety protections for workers. Workers in right to work states are twice as likely to die on the job as workers in states without such laws. Wisconsin already has a higher job fatality rate than the national average. In 2013, 96 workers lost their lives on the job in Wisconsin.
2. Increase risk of on-the-job injury. Wisconsin workers already are at a higher risk of injury at work, with a rate much higher than the national average. In 2013, Wisconsin workers suffered more than 85,200 work-related injuries and illnesses. Employees in foundries, wood products manufacturing, transportation, nursing homes, as well as the police and firefighters, are particularly likely to be hurt at work.
3. Lower wages and health insurance coverage for workers, thus increasing poverty and infant mortality.
4. Decrease investment in education.
5. Undercut the ability of unions to bargain for safety standards and rights stronger than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) standards.
6. Limit the ability of unions to encourage compliance with worker protections, which unions do through collective bargaining agreements, member training and education, and workplace safety and health committees within the unions. Evidence shows that union workplaces have a much stronger enforcement of job safety rules than nonunion workplaces.
7. Weaken the protections for workers who are retaliated against for raising job safety concerns.
8. Make Wisconsin even more unsafe than it already is for workers. Currently, under the federal OSHA law, only 36 inspectors are available to check out 159,000 workplaces, meaning OSHA can only inspect each workplace once every 104 years. Similarly, the state’s penalties for job safety and health violations are too low. In fiscal year 2013, the average penalty for a serious safety violation was only $2,207. For killing a worker, it was only $3,000. Such low figures offer little deterrence.
The effort to lower wages in America is going to reach new heights in Wisconsin this week. Wall Street billionaires and political extremists are joining together to force a vote on right to work legislation, which is wrong for Wisconsin’s hardworking families. This is a blatant attempt to silence workers’ voices to stop us from speaking out about lower wages and mistreatment at work.
In America, we have a strong tradition of having each others’ backs. Right now, workers from throughout Wisconsin and across the country are gathering in Wisconsin to fight back, together. They are using the tool Gov. Walker is most afraid of: their collective voice.
This right to work sham is about much more than unions. It is simply the next step in the billionaire right wing’s attempt to strip our freedoms to bargain with our employers as we see fit, ensure safe workplaces and raise wages across the country. Billionaires like the Koch brothers and the Walton family are engaged in a systematic attempt to dismantle our economy by lowering wages, while lining their pockets with record profits.
Joni Ersnt. Scott Walker. Thom Tillis. Many of Tuesday night’s Republican winners have strong ties to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which brings together legislators and corporate lobbyists to write corporate-friendly legislation.
But while these current and former ALEC members got a boost from their connections and affiliation with the bill mill (in the case of Tillis, the boost came in the form of record spending from dark money groups like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity), ALEC itself is in dire straits.
The [SAP] spokeswoman told Manager that the company abandoned ALEC because of its “merkwürdigen” (strange) positions—such as its support for Stand Your Ground laws, climate denial, and opposition to solar energy deployment.
SAP joins American counterparts like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Yelp in ending their affiliation with ALEC.
Why is this a big deal? While a lot of information on ALEC is not public, we know that corporations pay at least $5,000 to become members and sit on the organization’s various task forces. When these companies leave–or decline to renew their membership–that means ALEC has fewer resources to recruit legislators, take them on lavish trips, or ply them with expensive steak dinners. It also means ALEC has less capacity to produce model legislation that weakens wages, attacks the rights of workers, stifles clean energy, and privatizes everything from schools to parking meters.
Tillis and his friends are in, but SAP is out. Who is next?
UPDATE. From Center for Media and Democracy’s Nick Surgey, writing in the Huffington Post:
SAP is a particularly big loss for ALEC, because its representative at ALEC, lobbyist Steve Searle, is the Chair of ALEC’s corporate board, and the former corporate chair of ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. As a leader within ALEC, Searle would have helped drive the ALEC agenda, and would have had inside knowledge of what ALEC has planned for 2015 to continue to stonewall action to tackle climate change.
The one-page order gives opponents of the law 90 days to file a formal petition asking the Supreme Court to take up the case. The court’s three most conservative justices, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, dissented.
It is estimated that some 300,000 registered Wisconsin voters—mostly African American, Hispanic, students and young voters (18–24) and those older than 65—do not currently have the types of IDs the law requires.
There have been a number of legal challenges to the photo ID law that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the Republican-majority state legislature passed in 2011. The most recent when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project filed an emergency request asking the Supreme Court to block the ruling.
Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair says:
As we showed in the federal District Court, approximately 300,000 registered Wisconsin voters, disproportionately voters of color, lack the forms of ID that would have been required under the state’s restrictive voter ID law. These voters have a fundamental right to vote, a right that should not be denied by politicians who manipulate the voting rules weeks before Election Day. In a democracy, elections should be free, fair and accessible to all Americans.
On Oct. 8, the key parts of North Carolina’s restrictive voting rights law go forward, and last week the court allowed new voting restrictions in Ohio that severely curtailed early voting opportunities to go forward.
Today is National Voter Registration Day and while volunteers around the country will be on street corners, outside of groceries stores, at bus and subway stops and elsewhere to help people register, you can get started right now, right here with just one click.
If we’re going to beat back the attack on working families by the likes of Mitch McConnell, Scott Walker, the Koch brothers and other extremists, all of us—you and your family and friends—must be registered to vote.
The AFL-CIO has teamed up with TurboVote to make voting easy for you and for your friends and family. Not only can you register or update your registration, but TurboVote will help you with absentee ballots, vote-by-mail information, finding your polling place and even sending reminders by email and text so you won’t forget to vote.
In the past few years, 22 states have passed new laws restricting the right to vote and changing voter registration rules. So even if you’re already registered, you should double check that you and the people most important to you are prepared to vote this year. Have you moved since last Election Day? Make sure you’re registered to vote at your new address. Maybe your friends have moved recently and need to update their voting information.
It’s an election year and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote against a whole host of extreme candidates who support policies that limit rights, make it even harder to afford a middle-class life and pad the pockets of their corporate buddies. One of the “Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections” is (surprise, surprise) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Here are six reasons why Walker has been bad for working people:
1. Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs in his first term, but with only a few months left the state is dead last in the Midwest in terms of job growth and he’s less than halfway toward reaching his jobs goal. [The Washington Post, 9/5/14]
2. And jobs aren’t just the one negative in Wisconsin’s economy. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ranked the state 49th in economic outlook and Wisconsin was one of only five states projected to contract in the second half of 2013. On top of that, new estimates show the state will be facing a $1.8 billion shortfall in the next budget cycle. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/28/13; Media Matters, 1/27/14]
3. As governor, Walker made the largest education cut in the state’s history—more than $1 billion. [Politifact, 2/8/12]
4. Walker signed legislation that would pre-empt local government control, preventing them from requiring paid sick days for workers, regardless of how much the community might want them. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/5/11]
5. Despite the fact that wages are stagnant and the minimum wage continues to lose buying power, Walker opposed raising the minimum wage, calling such a proposal a “political grandstanding stunt.” [The Associated Press, 1/23/14]
6. And the kicker that we’re all too familiar with: Walker signed a bill to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights, barred the traditional collection of union dues and forced workers to pay more for their health care and retirement benefits. [2011 Wisconsin Act 10; The New York Times, 2/22/14]
Due to a 2005 law, individual municipal units like cities and counties in Wisconsin can’t enact their own wage laws. (Thanks to one of Walker’s first acts as governor, the same applies to paid sick days laws). But counties can still put non-binding “advisory” wage-related referenda on the ballot. Dane, Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Eau Claire counties will all ask voters if they recommend raising the minimum wage to $10.10.
Despite staunch opposition from Gov. Walker and his legislative allies, an incredible 76 percent of Wisconsinites support raising the minimum wage above the current $7.25. To survive a tough race against businesswoman Mary Burke, who supports raising the wage, Walker might have to shift his position. “We do think that ultimately Gov. Walker’s position is going to need to evolve or he’s going to be negatively impacted by his position because it’s out of step with the majority of voters,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison of Wisconsin Jobs Now.
Wisconsin activists aren’t done, though. They also submitted signatures to get minimum wage increases on the ballot in Neenah and Menasha.
On April 29, 2014, restrictive voting laws in both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were dealt major blows.
In Wisconsin, the voter ID law passed in 2011 and backed by Gov. Scott Walker was struck down by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote that the law placed unfair burdens on poor and minority voters, as well as the nearly 300,000 Wisconsinites who currently lack ID. The law has not been enforced since a state judge ruled it unconstitutional in March 2012.
While attending the Time 100 gala in New York City, Gov. Walker told reporters: “We ultimately think that just like many other issues in the last several years that it will ultimately be upheld.” Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Plans to appeal.
The judge “also entered a permanent injunction,” said Pennsylvania ACLU legal director Vic Walczak, “which means the voter ID law cannot be enforced unless and until the [state] Supreme Court takes some kind of action.” The Corbett administration has not yet said whether they plan to appeal.
These laws were part of a nationwide push for restrictive voting laws after the 2010 elections, backed by the power of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
The Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voter ID laws were both based on ALEC model legislation and pushed by ALEC-affiliated legislators. According to NBC News, lawmakers proposed 62 photo ID bills in 37 states in the 2011 and 2012 sessions alone, and that “more than half of the 62 bills were sponsored by members or conference attendees” of ALEC.
The Pennsylvania law was championed by prominent ALEC member Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who used taxpayer money to attend ALEC conferences.
So what’s next? Egregious voting restrictions are still on the books across the country, particularly in North Carolina. Working America members in NC have made it their primary focus to educate their communities about the law.
But as the New York Times editorial board put it, Wisconsin’s Judge Adelman has “paved the path” for similar laws across the country to be confronted by the court system.
In a stunning display of hypocrisy, 15 of the 17 Wisconsin state senators who voted to restrict early voting hours in Wisconsin have themselves voted early. Senate Bill 324 would prohibit voters from casting their ballots early before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m. on weekdays or at any time on weekends. The total number of hours that early voting ballots, which are submitted as absentee ballots, can be accepted under the legislation cannot exceed 45 hours a week.
Scott Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, condemned the hypocrisy:
That these senators would vote to make it harder for their fellow citizens to cast an early ballot in elections, just as almost every single one of them has, is an almost unbelievable act of hypocrisy….Elections are the one time everyone—regardless of age, race or income—is equal. Our government ought to be making it as convenient as possible for legal voters to participate in our democracy. But apparently these Republican senators believe they deserve to be more equal than others.