After two weeks of fierce debate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Monday signed into law a statewide ban of mandatory union dues.
The policy, known as right-to-work, is now law in 25 states with Wisconsin being the latest and several others currently considering it. While supporters argue that workers should have the right to choose whether they want to be in a union, opponents often claim it hurts the middle class by giving employers too much power over their workers.
After lawmakers, business leaders, union officials and labor experts argued their side of the issue, the Wisconsin version of the policy passed in both the state senate and assembly.
The law was designed to go into effect immediately after Walker signed it, but because it does not affect previous labor agreements, it could be years before it is fully implemented for all workers in the state.
According to The Associated Press, Walker signed the bill at a private ceremony just north of Milwaukee. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and other supporters of the policy were with Walker as he signed the legislation into law.
“The effort to lower wages in America is going to reach new heights in Wisconsin this week,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared in a statement.
“Wall Street billionaires and political extremists are joining together to force a vote on Right to Work legislation which is wrong for Wisconsin hardworking families,” Trumka continued. “This is a blatant attempt to silence workers’ voices to stop us from speaking out about lower wages and mistreatment at work.”
However, Trey Kovacs, a policy expert for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argues that the law will greatly help Wisconsin in an economic sense.
“By making Wisconsin a Right to Work state, Governor Scott Walker and the legislature put worker freedom first instead of catering to the special interests of labor unions,” Kovacs noted in a prepared statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Giving workers an opt-out means people can now keep or get jobs without being forced to pay union dues. Adopting a Right to Work law also gives a state the competitive edge, creating a business-friendly environment that leads to economic growth.”
Mark Mix, the president of the National Right to Work Committee, also praised the state for passing the law.
“Congratulations to Wisconsin in becoming America’s 25th Right to Work state. Despite the loud and apoplectic cries of union officials, Right to Work is simply an application to labor law of the First Amendment freedoms that are a bedrock of our republic,” Mix said in a statement.
“We hope today will put pressure on the remaining holdouts in the Midwest who continue to permit workers to be fired simply for refusing to pay money to a union they don’t support,” Mix continued. “Every worker deserves freedom of choice when it comes to union membership and dues payment, and if states like Michigan and Wisconsin can pass Right to Work then Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio can too.”
The executive director for the Center for Worker Freedom (CWF), Matt Patterson, argues the law won’t just help workers and employers, it could also help unions.
“Right-to-Work means more jobs and, more importantly, more freedom,” Patterson noted. “When unions are forced to attract workers with persuasion instead of force, they become more responsive to their members.”
Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) found in a recent poll of Wisconsin citizens that the state overwhelmingly approves of the policy. The poll found 62 percent would vote in favor of such a law, 32 percent would not and 6 percent didn’t know.
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