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Union Leader Blasts Right-To-Work Bill, Extraordinary Session

State AFL-CIO Head Says Fast-Track Meant To Shut Down Debate

Shawn Johnson/WPR News

Labor leaders said they’re still hoping some Republican state lawmakers will change their minds about supporting a GOP “right-to-work” bill being fast-tracked through the Legislature this week.

Leaders from private- and public-sector unions held a Madison press conference Monday to blast the Republican plan to make Wisconsin the nation’s 25th right-to-work state. Such laws ban mandatory union dues at private-sector businesses.

Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt said union and non-union workers alike would see their wages go down if right to work becomes law.

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“Right to work is an attack on all Wisconsin families. Right to work cripples the fundamental rights of all workers to join together, stick together, and have each other’s back in the workplace. When solidarity is eroded, it’s the entire middle class who suffers,” Neuenfeldt said.

Speaking on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Central Time following the press conference, Neuenfeldt reiterated what he sees as the negative effects of right-to-work legislation on state economies.

“Workers in states that have right-to-work laws make less money, have less benefits, and tend to not enjoy retirement security as well as those workers who do live in states that have stronger collective bargaining agreements,” he said.

Republican leadership unveiled their right-to-work plan in a surprise announcement last week, opting for an extraordinary legislative session that Neuenfeldt argued was an effort to stifle public discussion on the bill.

“They don’t want to have this bill out there. They don’t want to have people understand it, they don’t want to have a debate. Because they know at the end of the day, once people realize what’s going on here, they’re really going to object to it,” Neuenfeldt said.

Neuenfeldt also decried what he sees as special-interest influence behind the push for right to work in Wisconsin.

“This bill is almost word-for-word a bill that’s been produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council,” he said. “Which I think a lot of your listeners realize is an organization that’s funded by a lot of corporate right-wing think tanks.”

The Senate Labor Committee will hold a public hearing on the right-to-work plan Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the full Senate will debate it Wednesday. Unions are planning rallies on the Capitol steps both days.

Galen Druke contributed reporting to this story.