"We send a message of solidarity to the workers in Wisconsin today, as they once again fight to preserve their long-standing union rights. We know all too well that these so-called right-to-work laws are more of the agenda to silence workers into accepting poor working conditions and low wages." — James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
Madison, Wisconsin (25 Feb. 2015) — If the Republican-led legislature in Wisconsin has its way, the state will become the next jurisdiction to implement so-called right to work labour laws.
The issue is being discussed at an extraordinary hearing of the Senate labour committee, followed by a full discussion in the Senate on Feburary 25. It is likely to go to the Assembly in the first week of March.
Wisconsin Republicans have history of anti-union decisions
In 2011, the Wisconsin legislature sparked public outrage when it passed a number of bills providing massive tax cuts and deductions for businesses and giving up massive revenues for the state. Following the tax cuts, Governor Walker's administration projected a $3.6 million budget shortfall. To offset the shortfall, the government moved to strip public sector workers of their right to bargain collectively on pensions, wages, sick leave and health insurance.
Thousands of people protested around the state and at the legislature against the austerity measures and the impact these measures would have on the community. Protests continued and escalated during for five months, as public sector workers refused to be silenced over the loss of their fundamental rights.
Right-to-work bill will prohibit workers from being required to join, or financially support a union
Now, Walker is taking his anti-union philosphy further by promoting this right to work legislation. The proposed bill would prohibit workers from being required to join and financially support a union — such as by paying dues — as a condition of their employment. Republicans have put the bill on a fast track and Governor Walker is set to sign it into law. Walker is slated to be a Republican candidate for President in 2016.
Workers to protest regressive legislation
Workers from around the state will be gathering at the hearing to protest the bill. The Wisconsin state chapter of the American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organizations has even planned a rally for Tuesday and Wednesday in front of the state capital.
Right to work laws are designed to weaken workers' voices, provide less funding for unions to represent workers, and remove organized opposition to low wages and discriminatory treatment in the workplace.
"This right-to-work sham is about much more than unions. It is simply the next step in the billionaire right wing’s attempt to strip our freedoms to bargain with our employers as we see fit, ensure safe work places, and raise wages across the country. Billionaires like the Koch brothers and the Walton family are engaged in a systematic attempt to dismantle our economy by lowering wages, while lining their pockets with record profits, " Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President said in a statement.
"Unions and collective action are a powerful line of defense against this aggressive attack on our working families. We need to use this fight to help all workers — union and non-union — unite in their collective voice and in their demand to raise wages throughout our country," Trumka concluded.
"We send a message of solidarity to the workers in Wisconsin today, as they once again fight to preserve their long-standing union rights," said James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "We know all too well that these so-called right-to-work laws are more of the agenda to silence workers into accepting poor working conditions and low wages."
"Unions remain one of the strongest vehicles for change in the world. They are able to connect to large numbers of people and speak out without fear of seeing their funding cut. But the rich and powerful don't like it when we stand up to them," Clancy continued. "But we must stand together, and speak out to challenge laws that aim to harm workers and communities in the name of corporate profit."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE