More than 300 private sector business interests are joining forces to fight an effort to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state. The Wisconsin Contractor Coalition includes a variety of private employers and skilled trade representatives. Spokesman Steve Lyons says members agree with Governor Walker that the state is facing more pressing issues and the debate would only be a distraction from those.
They also believe a right-to-work law amounts to government intrusion. Lyons says “this is a contract between a private sector trade association and the company they work with. For government to interfere in that we think is bad public policy.”
Right-to-work laws typically prohibit requiring union membership as a condition of employment. Lyons says studies from groups both for and against those laws have found they lowered wages and benefits in states that adopted the policy. He warns that many employers are already saying they can’t find enough skilled workers to fill nearly 70,000 vacant positions in the state, and the possibility of reduced wages and benefits could make that even harder.
Lyons also notes that many smaller businesses appreciate the services unions offer in terms of getting workers ready for jobs. He says they enjoy the benefit of private dollars helping to make sure workers show up already trained and ready for the job.
Republican lawmakers have indicated they plan to advance right-to-work legislation in the spring. Lyons says the coalition’s focus right now is on informing the public and lawmakers about why that’s the wrong move for the state. He expects more businesses to join the group in the coming weeks.