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Wisconsin Assembly Passes Right-to-Work Legislation

MacIver Institute

With a vote of 62 to 35, the Wisconsin state Assembly approved right-to-work legislation after 24 hours of debate. Members of the Assembly first took to the floor at 9 a.m. on Thursday. From the beginning, it was clear lawmakers were preparing for a long night. All throughout Thursday and Friday morning, Democrats introduced a number of amendments and referrals.

At around 5 a.m. Milwaukee Rep. Mandela Barnes told Assembly members why he believes right-to-work legislation should be referred back to the small business committee. Barnes says that there are a lot things Wisconsinites need, but right-to-work isn’t one.

“All students who graduate high school in this state deserve a right to in state tuition, nonviolent offenders deserve the right to a second chance, it may be the law now, but couples in this state have long deserved to marry who they love, our precious land deserves the right to not be subject to corporate takeover, the people in this state deserve the right to safety, and no, if you cannot pass a background check you do not deserve the right to a firearm,” Barnes says.

“And what does that have to do with referring the bill to the small business committee?” Tyler August says.

“I’m getting there Mr. Speaker,” Barnes says.

“Get there quicker,” August says.

“I’ll be right there. You got a time on me yet?” Barnes says.

“Long time,” August says.

“Well there’s no reason to stop now then,” Barnes says.

Exchanges between the majority party leadership and Democrats wasn’t always the friendliest.

Very early on Thursday, GOP leader Robin Vos made it clear that Republicans believe the 24 hour session is about delaying the vote, not what’s best for Wisconsin.

“Unfortunately, rather than debating the merits of worker freedom and giving every single worker in Wisconsin who wants to join a union the freedom to do so, we’re going to not have a series of amendment and resolutions all designed to distract and to take away from the main argument,” Vos says.

Republicans introduced right-to-work legislation two-weeks ago saying they had the votes and it would spur job growth. Mary Czaja represents northern Wisconsin.

“It was very interesting yesterday, I have the privilege of sitting on the Joint Finance Committee, we heard from WEDC yesterday and they talked about marketing our state and brining in new businesses. And their words to us were seven out of 10 employers screen us out because we are not right to work,” Czaja says.

Democrats have maintained that Wisconsin businesses are not asking for Wisconsin to become a right-to-work state, Republicans maintain Wisconsin’s economy will thrive.

The legislation is now headed to Gov. Walker's desk. He is expected to sign right-to-work into law on Monday.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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