Wisconsin Introduces Word-for-Word ALEC Right to Work Bill

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Wisconsin Introduces Word-for-Word ALEC Right to Work Bill

Wisconsin Republicans have called a special session to take up a "right to work" measure attacking private sector unions--and the text of the bill, the Center for Media and Democracy has discovered, is taken word-for-word from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation. (Photo: Wisconsin AFL-CIO/flickr/cc)

Wisconsin Republicans have called a special session to take up a "right to work" measure attacking private sector unions--and the text of the bill, the Center for Media and Democracy has discovered, is taken word-for-word from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation.

See the side-by-side of the Wisconsin legislation and the ALEC bill here

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a former ALEC state chairman, says that the legislature has the votes to enact the measure, which undermines collective bargaining by allowing workers to opt-out of paying the costs of union representation. Right to work laws are associated with lower wages for both union and non-union workers. 

Fitzgerald has long supported right to work, and in the past hasn't been shy about describing the ALEC connection. In December 2010, after Republicans took control of the legislature, he was asked by Jeff Mayers of WisPolitics about making Wisconsin a right to work state.

Fitzgerald replied: "I just attended an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting and I was surprised about how much momentum there was in and around that discussion, nothing like I have seen before." See the video here.

Governor Scott Walker, an ALEC alumni, was thrust onto the national stage in 2011 when he and the Republican-controlled legislature destroyed collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions, prompting massive protests and an unsuccessful recall election. With Walker's sights set on the GOP presidential nomination, he has recently called right to work for private sector unions a "distraction," but has stated that he will sign the bill. 

Walker's support for right-to-work is no surprise. 

Walker worked to promote many ALEC bills during his time as a state legislator (1993-2002) and first co-sponsored a right to work bill as a freshman legislator (SB 459). Just days after Walker was first sworn-in as governor in January 2011, he spoke frankly about his plans to "divide and conquer" Wisconsin unions in conversation with billionaire GOP financier Diane Hendricks for a documentary which only became public more than a year later. Hendricks gave Walker $500,000 for his 2012 recall effort, and gave $1 million to the Republican Party of Wisconsin in 2014.

“Any chance we'll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions?,” Hendricks asks in the January 2011 video.

“Oh, yeah!” says Walker.

“And become a right-to-work [state]?,” Hendricks asks.

Walker replies: “Well, we're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.… That opens the door once we do that.”

Brendan Fischer

Brendan Fischer is associate counsel at The Campaign Legal Center. Formerly with PR Watch, he graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Prior to law school, Brendan served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural community in Northeastern El Salvador. Twitter: @brendan_fischer

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