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Protests Expected Today and Tomorrow Over "Right to Work"

PHOTO: As was the case four years ago during the passage of Act 10, the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison is expected to be the scene of protests this week as labor interests organize demonstrations opposing fast-tracked "right-to-work" legislation. Photo credit: Katherine Belarmino/University of Wisconsin.
PHOTO: As was the case four years ago during the passage of Act 10, the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison is expected to be the scene of protests this week as labor interests organize demonstrations opposing fast-tracked "right-to-work" legislation. Photo credit: Katherine Belarmino/University of Wisconsin.
February 24, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - Four years ago massive protests against Act 10 drew thousands of people to the state capitol in Madison to make their voices heard.

Organized labor in Wisconsin is hoping throngs of people will once again converge on the capitol Tuesday and Wednesday to protest passage of right-to-work legislation. Protest events are scheduled for 12 noon at the capitol both days.

Supporters of right-to-work legislation say it helps create jobs, but detractors say it's nothing more than "union busting." Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, says right-to-work will be bad for Wisconsin.

"States that have right-to-work have lower wages, they spend less per student on public education, fewer people have health care, and even infant mortality rates are higher," he says. "We know that in states that have right-to-work, wages go down by about $5,000 a person."

Ross says the ripple effects of right-to-work legislation reduce the quality of life in states where such laws have been passed. Right-to-work legislation has been pushed for the past few years by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and some organizations have ended their support for ALEC because it pushes right-to-work laws. Among them are pharmaceutical giant Amgen and international defense contractor Northrup-Grumman, both cutting ties with ALEC because of shareholder concerns about right-to-work and other activities ALEC is engaged in.

Right-to-work legislation has come up suddenly in Wisconsin. In his 2014 re-election campaign, Gov. Scott Walker said it was not something that was part of his agenda, and repeatedly said he would not support it. But last Friday, Republican legislative leaders announced they were introducing right-to-work legislation and called for a special session of the legislature to pass it. Ross and other observers were surprised at how quickly the issue came up.

"They have to try and muscle this through as quickly as possible," says Ross. "The more people find out about what the impact of right-to-work is, the more they realize it's wrong for Wisconsin."

Walker was out of state meeting with potential supporters and donors as he explores a run for President in 2016 when Republican legislative leaders announced the plan to fast-track right-to-work legislation. A spokesperson for the governor says if it passes, he will sign the bill into law.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI