Four years after massive crowds of protesters surrounded Wisconsin’s Capitol building during the fight over collective bargaining legislation, chants of “this is what Democracy looks like” could once again be heard floating around the building on Tuesday.
Union groups find themselves once again fighting a battle against Republicans, who this time are seeking to make Wisconsin the 25th state in the country to adopt right-to-work legislation. The bill would prohibit requiring workers to pay union dues or join a union as a condition of employment.
As lawmakers kicked off a hearing on the proposal Tuesday morning, crowds of protesters filled the building and rallied on the steps of the Capitol during the noon hour. Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt called on opponents of right-to-work to make their voices heard by registering to testify against the measure. Neuenfeldt said “we gather here today to join together in solidarity, to raise our voices for the future of Wisconsin, for the future of our communities, and for the future of our entire middle class.”
The state Department of Administration estimated about 2,000 people were at the Capitol during the rally. The number is significantly less than some of the crowds that appeared four years ago during the fight over Act 10, Governor Scott Walker’s legislation that stripped most public employees of their collective bargaining powers.
Opponents of right-to-work argue the measure will drive down wages and reduce the ability of workers to have a voice in workplace issues. Those pushing the legislation argue the change is needed to spark economic investment in Wisconsin, and argue other states have seen their labor market improve after adopting right-to-work laws.