Proponents and critics of a proposed right-to-work bill sparred at a public hearing Monday, as the bill cleared another hurdle on its way to the Assembly floor.
Elected officials and representatives from pro-business and pro-union organizations gave testimony long past the scheduled 8 p.m. end time before the Assembly Labor Committee. Wisconsin citizens also spoke, including many who arrived well before the 10 a.m start time.
State Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, who is a co-sponsor of the Assembly bill, touted the individual freedom the bill would create for workers.
“Promoting individual freedom maximizes individual prosperity,” Kapenga said. “This is about giving workers freedom.”
James Sherk, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, also testified in favor of the bill, saying the bill would bolster the state’s economy.
“Unions are cartels and … come with losses for the rest of society,” Sherk said.
His testimony came under fire from state Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha. Ohnstad asked Sherk if he believed unions helped build the middle class, a statement which Sherk rejected.
“Well that’s where you and I disagree,” Ohnstad replied.
Gerald Miller, a manufacturing engineer for Caterpillar Global Mining, spoke against the bill, lambasting the committee for “representing special interests” and not their constituents.
“This bill is wrong across the board,” Miller said. “It’s disgusting, despicable, and I will take note of every assemblyman who votes for it so we can clean house in the next election.”
Tim Silha, president of the Janesville chapter of the United Auto Workers, said the right-to-work bill would “destroy” efforts to bring General Motors back to southeastern Wisconsin, specifically in Janesville.
“If Wisconsin is truly open for business you will reject this bill,” Silha said.
The public hearing lacked the dramatic ending that last week's Senate public hearing had. State Sen. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, ended last week’s hearing early, citing a credible threat of a disruption, and called for a harried vote.