Employers would be allowed to reduce workers' hours to avoid layoffs under a bill that cleared the State Assembly yesterday.
The so-called workshare legislation would give employers the flexibility to lower the hours of a group of workers rather than firing a few of them. It would be similar to laws in two dozen other states, with one exception: Those laws include an explicit warning to employers that they need to respect collective bargaining agreements. The bill authored by Wisconsin Republicans does not.
The decision by GOP lawmakers to drop that warning went against the wishes of Wisconsin's decades-old Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council which is made up equally of representatives from business and labor. Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca asked Republicans to follow the Council's advice.
"This is labor and management working together to do the right thing. They're doing what we should be doing."
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the Council was welcome to voice its opinions to lawmakers.
"But they should never, ever have the ability to dictate to this legislature what should be included in a bill."
Warning or not, Republicans say that if a union has a collective bargaining agreement in place, an employer would still have to consult with them before reducing work hours.
The plan passed on a bipartisan 74-22 vote with both Republicans and Democrats voting for and against. It heads next to the Senate.