For the second day in a row, an estimated crowd of about 2,000 union members and their supporters voiced their opposition at the Wisconsin Capitol to a proposed right-to-work bill during a noon-time rally on the steps of the building. As a light but steady snowfall fell on them, union leaders called on members to stay strong in their efforts to convince lawmakers to reject the proposal.
The bill being fast-tracked at the Capitol would prevent workers from being required to join a union or pay dues in a union shop. John Drew with the United Auto Workers argued the Republican-backed measure is designed to hurt the ability of unions to organize. He said “this is page one of the Walker, Vos, Fitzgerald playbook…change the laws to weaken your opponents.”
Allison Sorg with SEIU was among several speakers who criticized lawmakers for trying to stifle debate on the measure, following a public hearing on Tuesday that was cut short by Republicans despite the fact that hundreds of people were still waiting to testify. She said those people were waiting to testify with their personal stories about how right-to-work will hurt their families, their communities, and called it “shameful” for Republicans to end a public hearing abruptly.
State Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) cut-off public testimony on the bill Tuesday night about a half hour early, citing concerns about a “credible threat” that protesters planned to disrupt the hearing and prevent a vote. It passed out of committee shortly afterward on a 3-1 vote.
The state Senate opened debate on the bill Wednesday afternoon, with protesters filling the gallery and Capitol rotunda.