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WI: GOP leadership says ‘right-to-work’ isn’t going to happen

By   /   November 14, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 8 of 9 in the series Right to Work

By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — If WisconsinRepublicans intend to pursue right-to-work legislation in the coming months, they’re doing a fine job hiding their plans.

NOT HAPPENING: Wisconsin Republican leadership, including Gov. Scott Walker, are indicating that “right-to-work” legislation is not on the agenda, even as conservatives press for it.

“No,” Gov. Scott Walker will not press the Legislature to pass a right-to-work bill, his spokesman, Cullen Werwie, said Wednesday.

Pressed to say whether Walker would veto the bill if it made it to the governor’s desk, Werwie said in an email, “This legislation will not make it to his desk.”

Of House Speaker-elect Robin Vos’ intentions, his spokeswoman Kit Beyer said, “I know that there’s some people (who) have been honing in on this, but I don’t even know if that’s really necessary, because it’s not really on our agenda.”

Speaking for Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, chosen again as Senate majority leader after the GOP regained the majority in the Nov. 6 election, spokesman C.J. Szafir said, “The governor’s made it clear that he’s not going to sign any right-to-work legislation, so there’s really no reason to push for right-to-work.”

Still, leadership’s insistence that right-to-work isn’t actually in the works won’t keep other conservatives from pushing the issue.

Right-to-work laws prevent workers from being compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or pay dues to a labor union.

After news came out that Beloit school bus drivers might strike, conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna tweeted Tuesday, “One more reason WI needs Right to Work legislation.”

And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday that nine Republican lawmakers support, among other things, right-to-work legislation.

A right-to-work bill could be seen, in one sense, as a natural progression of Act 10, the now-famous legislation the GOP passed last year that curtailed collective bargaining for most unionized public employees.

But the politics of 2013, when the Legislature returns to session, isn’t necessarily the politics of 2011.

Coming off the GOP’s landslide victory of November 2010, which gave Republicans legislative majorities and the governor’s office, Walker and GOP leadership pushed through a slew of conservative-friendly legislation, including Act 10.

In one sense, Wisconsin Republicans improved their standing Nov. 6 — regaining the Senate majority, even padding it a bit, and retaining a strong Assembly majority as well.

But whereas Wisconsinites elected conservative Ron Johnson to the U.S. Senate two years ago, this year Badger State voters chose Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the Madison-area Democrat with one of the most liberal records in Congress, to replace outgoing Democrat U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl.

A majority of Wisconsin voters also cast ballots in favor of President Barack Obama. And nationally, Obama won and the Democratic Party added to its U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives caucuses.

“I’m not surprised” that the GOP might avoid the right-to-work issue, Marquette University political scientist John McAdams said.

One difference McAdams noted between now and early last year — Walker faces an election in 2014, if he chooses to seek re-election.

Executives, at the presidential and gubernatorial levels, tend to take on their biggest challenges in their first year — as Walker did with public-sector unions — and then lay low heading into the next election, McAdams said.

“It’s not necessary caution,” he said. “It may be the fact that, ‘Wow, we did some great things last time. Now we don’t see anything so pressing because we won those battles.’”

Indeed, Republicans had a number of victories last year, including passing voter ID and concealed carry bills.

“If they pick fewer fights, it may be because they think the fights they thought really needed to be fought, they’ve already won,” McAdams said.

Contact Kirsten Adshead at [email protected]

Part of 9 in the series Right to Work


Kirsten formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.