The Wisconsin state Senate will debate right-to-work legislation on Wednesday. Tuesday night, labor committee chair Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), abruptly called for a vote on the measure before the announced 7:00 cut off time for public comments, citing a “credible threat” that unions would try to disrupt the vote.
“That threat, we’ve talked to Capitol police, it’s credible, and we are not going to take a chance on a disruption,” Nass announced to a packed fourth floor hearing room, where dozens of people were still waiting to testify on the controversial, fast tracked legislation.
The claim drew an immediate response from Bruce Colburn with the state SEIU. “Why don’t you be honest about it? There is no threat,” Colburn said. Capitol police escorted out the Republicans on the committee, as the hearing room erupted with shouts of “shame on you” and “let us speak.”
Nass said that the threat was mentioned in an article published earlier in the day by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which stated that volunteers from SEIU and Milwaukee-based Voces de la Frontera would stand to object when the vote was called at 7:00. Nass called for the vote shortly before 6:30.
“This is an attack on the working people of Wisconsin,” said state Senator Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha), who along with Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) spoke to reporters as a large group of protesters gathered outside the Senate chambers after the vote.
“They don’t want to listen to people,” said Voces de la Frontrera executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz. “This is another pretext, because the 48 hour decision to fast track this is about them not wanting to listen to working people. There is no credible threat, and he’s a coward.”
“There was no threat. There was an insistence that they allow people to testify and they hear their testimony, but in a very peaceful way,” Colburn said. “We are very disappointed that they cut off debate tonight,” said Wisconsin AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale. “That is not the right thing to do. People travelled from across the state to speak out on this issue of why right-to-work is wrong for Wisconsin.”