OPINION: Wisconsin governor commits to Right-to-Work legislation


Jennifer Hutchinson is a sophomore political science major. Contact her at [email protected].

Jennifer Hutchinson

Wisconsin Governor and potential presidential candidate Scott Walker committed to signing right-to-work legislation on Friday, after Republican leaders advanced the proposal for a Senate vote next week.

This came as a surprise as Walker had recently said in September that he would not be supporting it during this session.

“I’ve never said that I didn’t think it was a good idea. I’ve just questioned the timing in the past and whether it was right at that time,” he said, according to the Milwaukee Journal.

Walker has always thought it was a good idea. In fact, his signature law, Act 10, signed in 2011 is what made his potential White House run possible. Act 10 repealed most collective bargaining for most public employees. Walker pushed the legislation through despite protests by tens of thousands of union supporters. These protests eventually led to an attempt to recall Walker, which was unsuccessful, and bolstered him as a conservative champion.

What is right-to-work exactly, and why the strong support for it? In most states, workers at unionized companies must pay union dues in order to hold their jobs. Some of these dues may go towards bargaining on behalf of members, but these dues also pay for representation and political actions that members may not want. What right-to-work does is make union membership and dues voluntary.

This makes unions more responsive and working in the best interests of their members, as they have to earn their members’ support, and are not just obligated to give it. The Heritage Foundation quoted Gary Casteel, southern organizing director for the United Auto Workers, saying, “if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong’ . . . if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”

Right-to-work also boosts economies by making industries more competitive, and states that have implemented the law have become increasingly more attractive to prospective businesses. Not only is it more preferable to businesses, but a Gallop poll shows that Americans support right-to-work by three-to-one.

This law allows employees to have more control of their earnings and how they are spent. Currently, 24 states have already implemented right-to-work laws, which bar businesses and unions from reaching labor deals that require workers to pay union fees, with 18 of these states holding criminal penalties for violating the law.

Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) is leading the front on passing the bill. Legislators are calling an extraordinary session, in order to try to avoid delay tactics by Senate Democrats that would be available during regular session. The Senate leadership committee will introduce the bill Monday. There will be a hearing on it Tuesday, the Senate will take it up as soon as Wednesday, and the assembly will vote on it the following week.

If it passes, Wisconsin will become the 25th state to implement right-to-work, which could be a major boost for Scott Walker come 2016.