The top Republican in the state Senate says the Legislature “cannot avoid engaging in an open debate of Right to Work,” so he plans to take up the issue early next session. Appearing on conservative Milwaukee radio host Charlie Syke’s show Thursday morning, Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said lawmakers “can’t tiptoe through this session without addressing this…We’re not tackling this six months from now…We have to deal with this issue right now.”
Typical right-to-work laws prohibit employers from requiring union membership as a condition of employment. In a statement released after the appearance, Fitzgerald said what form a possible bill would take remains unclear. He said “While we do not know what a state-specific version of Right to Work will look like in Wisconsin, we owe it to the people of the state to have a true public policy discussion on the issue. That means examining the laws of the 24 other states that have already adopted some version of these protections and working with representatives of the private sector to determine the best fit for Wisconsin.”
Fitzgerald also claimed that recent nationwide polling from Gallup has “shown that an overwhelming majority of Americans are supportive of some version of Right to Work legislation and many of Wisconsin’s businesses have adopted individual versions of these protections for their workers.”
Fitzgerald’s comments are the latest in a series of developments in the right-to-work debate, which Republican leaders insisted on the campaign trail was not a priority. A group with conservative ties announced Monday that it was going to work to advance a bill next session, while a Republican lawmaker in the Assembly also disclosed that he’s working on legislation that will be introduced next session.
Governor Scott Walker has so far remained uncommitted to backing a bill, with his office restating that his “focus is on growing Wisconsin’s economy and creating jobs. Anything that distracts from that is not a priority for him.”
Democratic leaders were quick to seize on Walker’s non-committal comments. Both Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) released statements urging the governor to “put the brakes” on discussions. Barca argued “this would be an extremely polarizing policy at a time when we should be working together to improve Wisconsin’s economy,” while Shilling urged Walker to promise to veto any legislation that makes it to his desk.