The Wisconsin legislature on Friday approved a “right-to-work” bill that will bar unions from requiring workers to join or pay union fees. The measure, which passed the state legislature by a 62-35 vote after an all-night debate, will now go to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s desk for approval.
The vote was almost entirely on party lines, with just one Republican joining Democrats to vote against the measure. It was passed in the state senate last month along party lines, in a 17-15 vote.
Many unions in the United States require workers support the union financially through fees, whether the worker voted for that union’s representation or not, an arrangement conservatives dub “compulsory unionism” and an impingement on individual freedoms. “Right-to-work” laws would eliminate that financial requirement, allowing workers to benefit from union bargaining without paying into the system financially.
The Wisconsin AFL-CIO called the bill “reckless” and bad for the economy.
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“Right to work will drive down wages and benefits, decrease safety standards and weaken the middle class. Republicans are clearly more concerned with advancing the rights of out-of-state special interests who write their campaign checks than protecting the rights and protecting the wages of hard-working Wisconsinites,” the organization wrote in a blog post.
Walker became notorious during his first term when he slashed the collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers almost immediately after taking office in 2011. Walker in 2012 faced a recall election in large part due to his anti-union policies.
Once signed into law, the bill will make Wisconsin the 25th state with “right-to-work” legislation on the books.
Walker, who said during his re-election campaign that he did not expect so-called right-to-work legislation to be taken up this session and called the issue a “distraction,” has recently said he would sign the bill by next week.
Walker’s stance has veered conservative on a number of issues other that “right-to-work.” The governor, who is widely expected to make a bid for president in 2016, has also changed his stance on abortion and immigration, bringing his talking points more in line with far-right expectations.
Recently, Walker told a Fox News host that he would sign a 20-week ban on abortion if it came to his desk and would support similar legislation on the federal level.