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Senate Approves Bill Barring Union Worker Requirement For Local Governments

Under Plan, Local Governments Couldn't Require Project Labor Agreements

Wisconsin State Capitol
Phil Roeder (CC-BY)

The Wisconsin Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would bar local governments from requiring contractors on public projects to hire union workers.

The state Senate voted along party lines, with 19 Republicans supporting and 13 Democrats opposing the plan.

The proposal would bar local governments from requiring project labor agreements on public construction contracts. Project labor agreements can include requirements that workers are union members, minorities or veterans. They can also set working conditions, including rules governing strikes or overtime.

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Proponents of the bill say it would establish government neutrality in bidding for public projects.

“Wisconsin should not be alienating part of our workforce, all qualified laborers deserve equal access,” said Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

“This bill is a great bill, because it’s about getting people to work,” said Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville. “Why shouldn’t everybody have a crack at these jobs?”

Senate Democrats pushed back, saying the proposal infringes on local control and will lower workers’ wages.

“This is a bad bill,” said Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Kenosha. “These are big government Republicans sticking their nose into local government.”

Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, echoed those sentiments, saying the bill is reminiscent of Act 10, Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, and changes to the state’s prevailing wage laws.

“It’s anti-worker, anti-local government,” Hansen said. “This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on organized labor.”

Unions voiced their opposition to the bill at a public hearing last month. The Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, a trade group that represents companies with non-union workers, supported it.

The proposal is headed to the state Assembly.