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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker made Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state after signing the bill Monday.

Gov. Scott Walker enacts fast-tracked right-to-work bill

After chaotic public hearings, a 24-hour floor session and numerous protests over two weeks, Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work state as Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill into law Monday.

Walker was flanked by numerous Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who introduced the legislation that prohibits mandatory union dues as a condition of employment. The law, which was signed at a factory in Brown Deer, will take effect immediately.

“This legislation puts power back in the hands of Wisconsin workers, by allowing the freedom to choose whether they want to join a union and pay union dues,” Walker said in a statement. “Freedom to Work … will lead to more freedom and prosperity for all of Wisconsin.”

Walker’s decision to sign the bill marks a change from previous statements he had made where he declared right-to-work a “distraction.”

The battle over right-to-work started Feb. 20, when Fitzgerald and Vos announced they would call for an extraordinary session of the state Legislature to take up the topic.

Protestors flooded the Capitol that Tuesday for a public hearing held by the Senate’s labor committee. The hearing ended in chaos, as committee Chair Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, stopped early, citing a credible threat that protesters would disrupt the proceedings.

Nass called for a harried vote and was escorted from the room by Capitol police along with the other Republican members of the committee as cries of “shame” rained down from onlookers.

“This was a disgrace to democracy, a disgrace to the public,” Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said immediately after the hearing.

Debate on the bill began in the state Senate Feb. 25, as more than 2,000 protesters again descended on the Capitol steps to speak out against the bill. Nonetheless, the body voted to adopt the measure 17-15 with state Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, being the lone Republican to vote against the bill.

“I am not convinced that the supposed benefits of passing this bill will materialize and offset a potentially disruptive impact on our economy,” Petrowski said in a statement.

Right-to-work then cleared the Assembly last week, following a 12-hour public hearing earlier in the week and 24 hours of debate stretching from Thursday night into Friday morning. The bill passed on a party line vote 63-35.

“We’re fighting for every single worker in the state to have their own liberty,” Vos said during debate, adding later that “all the work was worth it” to pass right-to-work.

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