Wisconsin becomes latest right-to-work state

On March 9, a signature by Governor Scott Walker made Wisconsin the 25th state to pass right-to-work legislation. The new law means private-sector workers who don’t join a union won’t have to pay what is known as “fair share” payments assessed on workers who are deemed to benefit from union contracts despite their nonunion status.

The bill represents another blow to organized labor in Wisconsin. Soon after taking office in 2011, Walker spearheaded a drive that cut collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions. That effort sparked huge protests and a recall campaign against him. The measure stood, and he survived the effort to remove him from office. In his 2014 reelection campaign, Walker downplayed right-to-work efforts, but when the bill passed, he promised to sign it.

The bill passed the state senate by a 17-15 vote on February 25 and then passed 62-35 in the assembly on March 6.

The votes in the legislature brought cheers from the state’s business community. “The assembly is sending a signal from Main Street to Wall Street that Wisconsin is open for business,” Scott Manley, vice president of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said. “We are very fortunate to have a legislature that is pro-growth and pro-freedom.”

Union interests condemned the new law. A post on the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO blog called it a continuation of Walker’s “crusade on the hard-working, middle-class families of Wisconsin.”