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More Outrage From Right-To-Work Opponents At Second Public Hearing

Republican Assembly Backers Appear Unswayed By Testimony

Shawn Johnson/WPR

Many of the union members testifying against a right-to-work bill at the state Capitol Monday expressed anger at the Republican lawmakers who are supporting it.

The Assembly Labor Committee hearing stretched into the night, with union workers far outnumbering supporters. The Republican-backed measure would disallow private-sector businesses from entering into contracts with unions that require the paying of union dues.

Assembly Republicans have given no indication that they’re open to changing the right-to-work bill that already cleared the state Senate, saying it’s a simple bill that will lead to more liberty and prosperity for workers.

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Republican Rep. Chris Kapenga, a sponsor of the bill, said eliminating the requirement that people pay private-sector union dues provides “the liberty to choose.”

“As history has proven, promoting individual liberty and freedom maximizes the prosperity of the individual and of society as a whole,” said Kapenga.

Such arguments had some union members noticeably irritated at Monday’s public hearing. Gerald Miller said he used to work at Bucyrus before it was bought up by Caterpillar, a move that Miller said has already diminished his union’s bargaining power.

“And now you want members to opt out? You want my union that supports me to be weaker? It’s disgusting, it’s despicable and it’s disrespectful,” Miller said. “And I will not threaten, but I will say my goal when this legislation passes is to know every assemblyman and assemblywoman who voted for it, and this election cycle, we need to clean house.”

Longtime United Auto Workers member John Drew said the bill was all about political retribution.

“This law is not about anyone’s right to work, it is about weakening unions and saddling us with the cost of people who don’t pay their fair share,” said Drew.

Republicans said unions can still thrive under right to work, as long as their workers think they’re getting something valuable for their union dues.

The hearing was scheduled to end at 8 p.m., but committee chairman Rep. Andre Jacque has said he wants everyone to be heard. A Senate committee hearing on the measure was cut about 40 minutes short.

The Senate passed the bill last week and the Assembly is expected to vote on it Thursday. Gov. Scott Walker has said he will sign it into law by the end of the week.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with more quotes from union members and lawmakers, as well as with a photo from the hearing room.