Protests This Week In Madison Against Surprise New Anti-Worker Laws

Dave Johnson

This week a new wave of protests is expected in Madison, Wisconsin, in reaction to a sudden new set of anti-worker laws from Governor Walker and the state’s Republican leadership. The state’s union leadership is asking people to come to the capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Friday, Wisconsin Republicans said they will hold a sudden special session this week to vote on a set of anti-union laws. No advance notice, no hearings, no public notice, just wham-bam-thank-you-Koch-Brothers. Dave Jamieson explains at the Huffington Post, in “Wisconsin Could Be Right-To-Work In A Matter Of Days”:

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin state Senate is slated to take up a right-to-work bill in what’s known as an extraordinary legislative session. With less deliberation than normal, the GOP-controlled chamber could pass the bill this week. The measure would then move on to the state’s assembly, also controlled by Republicans, which would presumably take it up in early March.

Barring a fortuitous turn of events for organized labor, the anti-union measure could reach the governor’s desk next month.

This sudden, “extraordinary session” to push through “Right-to-Work” anti-union laws is designed to keep the public from having time to react and organize opposition.

Laws Intended To Weaken, Even Bankrupt Unions

Right-to-work laws require unions to represent all workers covered by a union contract, but lets those workers opt out of paying dues to the union. The idea is to weaken or even bankrupt the union. The union is required by the contract to provide services to the workers, including rent and employees for the union office, representation in disciplinary hearings and contract negotiators. This is expensive. But once they have the increased pay and benefits and representation on the job the workers naturally decide they can skip paying the dues.

Result: Lower Pay And Benefits, Higher Costs For State Social Services

The result of weakened unions is, of course, lower pay and benefits. Last year, in Anti-Union, Low-Wage States Spend More On “Safety-Net” Help, I wrote about these ramifications of these state anti-union laws:

A study from Labor and Employment Relations professor Robert Bruno of the University of Illinois-Urbana and policy director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute Frank Manzo IV showed that states with anti-union “right-to-work” laws have lower tax revenue, and have to spend more on government assistance to the poor as a result.

The study, titled, “Free-Rider States,” found that legislation supporting workers’ right to organize increases wages and reduces income inequality. As a result, collective bargaining states have higher incomes and less inequality. States with “right-to-work” laws have lower wages. These lower wages mean lower state income tax revenue, a slower economy in those states, and higher demand for government “safety-net” services.

ALEC Again

The Wisconsin bill was written by the notorious right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch has the story, in “Wisconsin Introduces Word-for-Word ALEC Right to Work Bill”:

Wisconsin Republicans have called a special session to take up a “right to work” measure attacking private sector unions–and the text of the bill, the Center for Media and Democracy has discovered, is taken word-for-word from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation.

Click through to see the side-by-side comparison of the Wisconsin Republican bill, and the ALEC original.

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