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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

 6:25 PM 

Assembly committee sends right-to-work to floor

Right-to-work legislation passed out of the Assembly Labor Committee on a party-line, 6-3 vote, with Dems and Republicans passionately defending their positions.

"I'm really, deeply disappointed with the direction this bill is taking," said Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine. "Clearly, it is the most anti-worker legislation we have seen since Act 10."

Mason's "anti-worker" comment prompted a response from Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, who said that, in light of debate tomorrow, he was not going to speak. But, he said, he had to answer Mason's comments.

"This is pro-worker, this is worker freedom," Kuglitsch said. "This is worker choice."

And, with Rep. Tod Ohnstad voting "hell no," the committee adjourned for the night.

The full Assembly is scheduled to take up right-to-work at 9 a.m. Thursday.


 6:05 PM 

Committee Republicans shoot down sunset

Labor Committee Dems' fourth and final amendment, a sunset provision for right-to-work, met the same fate by the same vote as the preceding three amendments.

Committee Republicans voted down the amendment 6-3.

The sunset would have phased out right-to-work if per-capita wages in the state go down after three years. The Department of Workforce Development would track those wages in the state during the three years to determine if the sunset applies.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said the amendment stems from the recent back and forth between right-to-work proponents and opponents over whether the bill would increase or decrease wages in the state.

"What this amendment does," Mason said, "is it basically leaves time to figure out who's right and who's wrong."

But the amendment lacked crucial details, committee Chairman Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, said. He said the amendment did not clarify how much a reduction in wages would trigger the sunset, nor, he said, did the amendment direct the DWD to determine what caused a wage decrease.

"I have serious concerns about the readiness of the amendment," Jacque said.


 5:45 PM 

90-day delay amendment fails

A right-to-work bill amendment that would have delayed implementation by 90 days failed with a 6-3 party-line vote.

Assembly Labor Committee Dems said the delay would be a reasonable way to let the business community adjust to right-to-work and offer stability during a time of uncertainty.

"If you look at other states that became right-to-work states, most recently Michigan," Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said, "this was a part of the bill."

Rep. Daniel Knodl, R-Germantown, argued there really is no reason to wait for right-to-work.

"A good bill means a good law," he said, "and it's good to go on day one."



 5:25 PM 

Amendment to remove criminal penalty fails

The Assembly Labor Committee rejected, with a 6-3 vote along party lines, an amendment from Dems that would have removed the criminal penalty in the right-to-work bill.

The criminal penalty would make violation of right-to-work a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine. The three committee Democrats — Reps. Christine Sinicki; Cory Mason, D-Racine; and Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha — spoke out against that penalty.



 5:09 PM 

Committee kills first amendment to right-to-work

The Assembly Labor Committee voted 6-3 along party lines to reject the Dems' first right-to-work amendment, which would have reinstated the declaration of policy at the start of the state's labor law.

That declaration sets out a state policy that calls for labor peace, freedom to negotiate and join a union, and protection of the interested of employers, employees and the public.

"In other words, we're finding a peaceful way to come up with our solution," Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said after reading the declaration aloud. "There's nothing wrong with keeping this declaration of policy in state statute."

Calling the declaration unnecessary, Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, urged the committee to reject the amendment.

"Everything stated in here," he said. "is in the statute."





 4:31 PM 

Dems plan right-to-work amendments heading into committee vote

Assembly Labor Committee Dems outlined their right-to-work battle plans today prior to an executive session on the bill.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said Dems would introduce four amendments to the right-to-work bill in committee. Those amendments are: delaying the effective date of the bill by 90 days; removing the criminal penalty in the bill that would make violation of right-to-work a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine; restoring the labor law's preamble, which emphasizes the importance of labor peace; and adding a sunset to right-to-work under which the law would phase out if wages in the state go down after three years.

The Department of Workforce Development would track median wages in the state during the three years to determine if the sunset applies, Mason said.

"We are choosing those four amendments because that is what we heard over and over again during testimony," he said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, responding after the Assembly Dems completed their press conference, said the amendments will fail.

"We are not going to accept amendments," he said, "that have no purpose other than to delay implementation of the bill."


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

 5:18 PM 

Assembly to convene at 9 a.m. Thursday on right-to-work

Majority Leader Jim Steineke just sent members an email notifying them the Assembly will convene at 9 a.m. Thursday to take up right-to-work with 24 hours set aside for debate.

That includes breaking for the State of the Tribes speech, which will start at 12:30 p.m. with a reception to follow in the North Hearing room.

SB 44 will be the only bill on the calendar.




 4:50 PM 

Assembly Labor Committee to vote on right-to-work after all

The Assembly Labor Committee has reversed course and will now hold an executive session on right-to-work tomorrow afternoon.

Chair Andre Jacque, R-DePere, did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone seeking comment for the change. The hearing will be at 4:30 p.m. in 417 North.


Monday, March 2, 2015

 9:51 PM 

Hearing adjourned

After several Dem legislators spoke to call for an executive session on the bill and to have a few questions answered, testimony has wrapped up on the bill after nearly 12 hours.


 9:34 PM 

Barca calls for executive session

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said testimony was "extraordinary" but that only half the work is done and the committee needs to have an executive session.

"You need to do your job, just like this democracy calls for," Barca said. "You're the only people in this body who's heard this powerful testimony."

Barca said to not incorporate the input from today "makes a mockery" out of the testimony that was given.



 9:09 PM 

Speaker chided for singing "Solidarity Forever"

Rep. Spiros asked that a speaker be removed after he began singing "Solidarity Forever" at the end of his testimony.

A few others joined in and Spiros warned they could all be removed.

"If there are other people going to sing that, you are out, too," Spiros said.



 8:45 PM 

Power line worker: Buy more body bags

A speaker from IBEW said as a power line worker he's worked next to non-union workers doing storm damage repair in other states and has seen them go home in body bags.

"Nobody should have to see that," he said.

He said power line work is dangerous and that workers all watch out for each other.

But he said safety would diminish if the bill is passed and the state should invest in more body bags if it does.

"You're going to need them," he said


 8:28 PM 

Madison psychiatrist: Pace of bill source of anger

A Madison psychiatrist offered a little analysis for committee members, telling them that people are angry.

But she said anger is a secondary emotion caused by something else, in this case, the feeling that their voices are not being heard. She said what bothers her and others is that the bill is being rushed and discussed as if its passage is guaranteed.

She suggested the bill be tabled until after the budget so it can be given due consideration.


 8:09 PM 

Dems call for executive session

All three Dems on the committee took a pause from taking testimony to call on Chair Andre Jacque to hold an executive session to consider amendments.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said the purpose of a public hearing is to listen to testimony and improve the bill accordingly. Mason pointed to an amendment he offered that would remove the misdemeanor penalty the bill includes.

Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, also called for an exec to consider her amendment that would prevent labor peace language from being taken out of the statutes.

"Part of democracy is having the guts to take tough votes some of us don't want to take," Sinicki said.

Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, said he would like to introduce an amendment to require cause for employers to fire an employee.

Jacque reminded the Dems that they are not currently in executive session and said he doesn't intend to hold an executive session at this time and that amendments will be discussed in caucus.


 7:06 PM 

No new registrants being allowed

Chair Andre Jacque announced that there are 55 registrants left and no new ones will be accepted. He said all of them will be given an opportunity to speak.

Also on deck are about a dozen Democratic lawmakers. They have agreed to speak after citizen testimony wraps up and each will have to observe a two-minute time limit.


 7:03 PM 

Hearing moving along smoothly

Despite a few outbursts earlier and scattered applause, the hearing is moving along smoothly.

Among the speakers was an 18-year-old high-school student who took the day off to testify, for whom Sinicki offered to write an excuse.

Also speaking was "Copper Crucible" author Jonathan Rosenblum, who said right-to-work was part of an ideological attack on progressive republicanism.


 6:19 PM 

Teamsters Local 344 Prez: Non-union shops less free

Teamsters Local 344 President William Carroll said that while proponents are saying the right-to-work  bill is about worker freedom,, non-union shops are some of the least free places in America.

Workers in non-union shops are subject to the whims of their employers and can be fired without cause as is needed in union shops, he said.

He said that while unions can give up exclusive representation so they do not have to give benefits to those who do not pay dues, they do not do so because it opens up the possibility of employers giving secret "yellow-dog" contracts to non-union employees, creating jealousy and causing people to leave the union.


 5:14 PM 

Tension rises as time to testify gets shorter

There has been a growing sense of tension in the room as the day wears on and speaking time gets shorter.

Testimony is now being held to four minutes, from the five it was earlier and the seven minutes allotted at the beginning of the day. For the most part throughout the day, no one waved signs or interrupted testimony with more than a pronounced murmur

Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, has been working to smooth over some of that tension.

About 30 minutes ago, a man stood up in the gallery, introduced himself and said he wanted to testify on the bill but had to go, prompting applause from the audience. Sinicki voiced her support for those sentiments but asked people to clap silently.

Later a man went over his time and continued after being told twice to finish.

Sinicki said people must follow the time schedule so everyone can be heard, She said the hearing will not be shut down.

But a woman in the crowd objected and continued to speak after being asked to stop. She was escorted out.

Earlier in the day, Chairman Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, kept a tight lid on applause and any other outbursts. His common response to clapping, which happened several times in response to outspoken opponents to the bill, has been to coach the audience of more than 100 people that reactions from the crowd are not allowed.

Following at least one round of applause, Jacque said that he did not want to clear out the hearing room. He did not act on the implied threat.


 5:09 PM 

NAACP's Greg Jones: Right to work not just, moral

NAACP Political Action Chair Greg Jones spoke out against the bill, saying anyone justice considering person or moral person would not consider supporting the bill.

He said right-to-work states have lower wages and higher workplace deaths.

He added that at a time when Wisconsin is considered one of the worst states for African American children, "it's appalling that the committee would entertain a bill like this in 2015."


 4:04 PM 

Marquette professor's study undercuts right-to-work

An economics professor from Marquette University presented a study today showing right-to-work neither increases wages nor attracts businesses.

Companies, Abdur Chowdhury told the Assembly Labor Committee, look for worker quality, tax policies, and conditions of highways and roads when considering which state to move to. 

"Now, in the age of globalization," Chowdhury said, "if firms are looking for cheap labor, they don't look at right-to-work states. They look to China or Mexico."

Under questioning from Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield and vice chairman of the committee, Chowdhury acknowledged that the Wisconsin Contractor Coalition, an informal group of businesses that oppose right-to-work, commissioned the study from him, though he declined to say if he was paid or how much.

As for wages in right-to-work states, he said, when proponents of the law cite average increases in wages, they are relying primarily on two right-to-work states, Texas and North Dakota, which experienced oil booms. Chowdhury compared that to trying to determine the average wealth of everyone in the hearing room and then watching how it would change if Bill Gates walked in.

"We all would be millionaires," he said.

Using Indiana as a representative of right-to-work states does not work either, Chowdhury said, because it adopted the law only in 2012. Oklahoma, he said, offers a better gauge because it adopted right-to-work in 2001.

"In most economic indicators you see," Chowdhury said, "Oklahoma has done much worse than Wisconsin. So the question is: Why do we want to be Oklahoma?"

If right-to-work does not attract businesses or increase wages, he said, the only reasonable explanation is the law is designed to hamstring unions.


 3:09 PM 

Union leader says training shop at risk

The fate of a training building in Waushara County is in the hands of those who will decide if Wisconsin becomes a right-to-work state, Terry McGowan, president of Operating Engineers Local 139, told the Assembly's Labor Committee today.

The Operating Engineers plans to use the $10.5 million building for training, McGowan said. But, he said, if right-to-work passes and due payments drop, unions will struggle to afford the training the industry needs.

"No business model can survive without charging for services," McGowan said.

And that threat to survival would extend to Coloma, where the union would conduct indoor, year-round training in its new building.

"We are in a very difficult position," McGowan said. "The decision you are about to make will decide if we have an indoor training facility or the largest potato-storage facility in Waushara County."


 2:21 PM 

Union exec: Right-to-work will push down wages

Mark Reihl, executive director of the Wisconsin State Council of Carpenters, argued the state's adoption of right-to-work would push down wages.

To illustrate his point, Reihl compared carpenter wages in Madison to those in Omaha, Neb., and Des Moines, Iowa. Nebraska and Iowa are right-to-work states and, like Wisconsin, members of a six-state regional council of carpenters.

The take-home hourly rate in Des Moines is $6 less than in Madison, Reihl said, and the rate in Omaha is $8.53 less than in Madison.

"One thing about right-to-work," he said, " is any policy the state adopts puts downward pressure on wage rates."


 1:57 PM 

WMC: Companies, not unions, pay for training

Dems on the committee challenged representatives of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce over who pays for worker training the unions provide and how much industry actually supports right-to-work.

Scott Manley and Bill Reader said records show that it is the employers, not unions who have shouldered the cost of training.

But Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, noted Politifact earlier rated that statement "mostly false."

Manley disagreed with the Politifact rating and noted that Politifact said the statement was "technically true."

Regardless, Manly said, nothing in the bill prohibits workers from paying for their own training and that union training programs are offered in right-to-work states.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, responded later, "Isn't it like saying employers pay for everyone's houses because they pay for wages?"

Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, challenged Manley over why no manufacturers have testified in favor of right-to-work at today's or the senate's hearing.

Manley said WMC represents manufacturers and that companies don't want to "stick their heads out" and choose to have the WMC speak for them "instead of subjecting themselves to the type of harassment and boycotting" he said they experienced during the Act 10 debate.

Manley also responded to comments that workplace safety would suffer under right-to-work.

Manley said lost-time injury rates are 33 percent lower in right-to-work states than compulsory union states.

But he said making such statements is not a fair comparison because it does not take into account the types of industries states have. He noted Wisconsin has higher than average injury rates but it is also heavy in injury-prone industries like manufacturing and agriculture.


 1:10 PM 

Knodl, Craig: Right-to-work about worker freedom

GOP Reps. Dan Knodl and Dave Craig said the bill is about worker freedom.

Knodl and Craig, along with Rep. Chris Kapenga, are taking the lead on the Assembly version of the bill.

Craig said the bill would increase freedom in the workplace, make the state more competitive and make unions more accountable to members.

Knodl said the it's important to have as few hurdles as as possible for those seeking jobs and people should not have to choose between a job and joining a union.

Knodl said that unions are able to get around free-rider problems because they do not have to provide exclusive representation. If they choose not to provide exclusive representation.


 12:42 PM 

Super Excavators Chairman: Union training "tremendous asset"

Super Excavators Chairman Peter Schraufnagel says the training offered by the union is a tremendous asset that provide skilled and safe workers.

Schraufnagel said during the winter when the operators are laid off they can train at the union facility and come back in the spring with new certifications.

He said over time that if people did not contribute to the union, there may not be enough money to support the training facility.

"If we didn't have those facilities we'd have to come up with another way to do this," Schraufnagel.

Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, said he was convinced the union training programs would continue as it had in other right-to-work states.

But Schraufnagel said that when it works in other states, the company brings its core workers along and that it is hard to find quality workers out of state.


 12:05 PM 

President of Union Conservatives argues right-to-work pro-union

Terry Bowman, president of Union Conservatives who said he has been a dues paying UAW member for more than 18 years, argued right-to-work is pro-worker because it forces union leaders to be more attentive to their members' needs.

Bowman said forced unionization gives labor officials a monopoly over workers and no incentive to spend members' money wisely because they are required to financially support them regardless of the job they do.

He called it un-American to require members to send money to unions that then engage in a "hyper political" agenda that focuses on just one side, supporting issues many of them don't support.

Right-to-work, he said, puts power back in the hands of workers.

“Forced solidarity is a contradiction. It is no solidarity at all," Bowman said.


 11:19 AM 

Union member cites safety, charity concerns

A member of United Steelworkers Local 1343 at Caterpillar Global Mining in South Milwaukee is opposing right-to-work legislation, arguing it would, among other things, damage safety efforts at work and charity programs in the community.

"I think this is an overreach," Gerald Miller told Assembly Labor Committee members, "and there are going to be repercussions to that overreach you haven't seen yet."

Miller said his union donates to Little League, parades, abuse shelters and local police events, among other things.

"If we have membership drop-off," Milller said, "we have less funds to put in the community."
He said a drop in membership also would diminish safety efforts the union has undertaken at Caterpillar, which he said has a state-of-the-art safety program.

"This is what we're going back to you," Miller said, "shut up and get it done."

Bill author Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, followed up Miller's testimony by confirming with legislative council that there is nothing in the right-to-work bill prohibiting people from joining a union.


 10:15 AM 

Right-to-work hearing starts

Tim Silha, president of Local 95 of the United Auto Workers union in Janesville was the first to testify today during a public hearing on right-to-work.

"If this bill is as promising to the state as you say," Silha told Assembly Labor Committee members, "these seats should be all full of people speaking in favor of it."


 10:05 AM 

Assembly's right-to-work authors kick off day of hearings

The authors of the Assembly's version of so-called right-to-work legislation prefaced a daylong public hearing today by vowing to keep the bill simple.

"From the beginning, we've kind of been working with the Senate," said Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, who was joined during a briefing by Reps. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown; Dave Craig, R-Big Bend; and Labor Committee Chairman Andre Jacque, R-De Pere. "The final product from the Senate is exactly what we were looking for. This actually is a very simple bill."

And the bill should stay that way, Kapenga said. He dismissed as unnecessary, for instance, the notion of a 90-day delay in implementation if Gov. Scott Walker signs the bill.

"That discussion has already happened, and I have not seen any convincing evidence that tells me that should take place," Kapenga said. "I don't think that is a valid concern, and we'll continue to go with the bill as it is."

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said last week that he does not want the bill back in the Senate.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

 9:57 PM 

Capitol closing in 15 minutes

The announcement has been made the Capitol will close in 15 minutes.

There are still some protesters in the building singing.

UPDATE: It appears everyone left without incident.


 9:40 PM 

Senate adjourns with chants of 'shame' from gallery

The Senate adjourned as members of the gallery chanted "shame."

Senate President Mary Lazich had to shout into the microphone to move the bill to the Assembly as the catcalls rained down and quickly adjourned the Senate after finishing up the procedural requirements.


 9:37 PM 

Senate approves right-to-work 17-15

The state Senate approved right-to-work legislation Wednesday night 17-15 as GOP Sen. Jerry Petrowski broke ranks to join Dems in opposing the bill.

The legislation next heads to the Assembly, which is expected to have a hearing early next week and will likely take up the bill March 5.

Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, accused Republicans of rushing through the legislation to distract the public’s attention from the state’s $2.2 billion shortfall and the guv’s budget that proposes cutting $300 million from the UW System and borrowing $220 million to build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, among other things.

He charged the legislation isn’t about worker freedom, saying no one can be forced to join a union now. Instead, he said it was about increasing corporate profits at the expense of middle-class families and said no one was demanding the change other than Republicans’s millionaire friends and donors.

“They are evaporating the middle class and no one in this room seems to care,” Hansen said.

Republicans largely declined to engage Dems as they lobbed various bombs at the bill, with only Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, the bill’s author, rising occasionally to refute the claims. Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, accused Republicans of being no-shows and failing to explain their votes to the people of Wisconsin.

Still, during the debate over final passage Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said he wanted to interject to push back on the notion there’s no real public support for the bill.

He said right-to-work was a central issue in his fall campaign and noted his opponent was Randy Bryce, the first protester who was removed at the start of Wednesday’s debate. He heard about it while knocking on 21,000 doors and said former Racine County Exec Jim Ladwig has told him the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce is preparing to publicly back the bill. Ladwig is now president of the organization. 

“This is not just an issue that has fallen on deaf ears,” he said, adding lawmakers should back it because his constituents expect him to vote for it.

Throughout the course of the debate, Dems suggested GOP members had promised constituents, including labor unions, they would oppose right-to-work only to go back on their word because of pressure from leadership. They did not single out any senators by name in making the accusation, though Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said almost half a dozen GOP members didn’t want to support the bill but were going along anyway.

“What’s more important than your own integrity and your own freedom?” Taylor said. 

Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, questioned why Republicans did not include police and firefighters in the legislation, suggesting it may have been favoritism or payback for past political support.

“If you believe in freedom for the rest of these individuals, you should believe in freedom for all of them,” he said.


 8:12 PM 

Head falls off Lazich's gavel

The head of Senate President Mary Lazich's gavel fell off as she tried to quiet the gallery.

Chief Clerk Jeff Renk bent down to pick it up for her as lawmakers laughed and the gallery gave Lazich a Bronx cheer.

The gavel is back in working order.


 7:41 PM 

Senate rejects final Dem amendment

The Senate rejected the Dem amendment to delay implementation by three months.

Like the other amendments, it fell along party lines.

Dems argued right-to-work should not be rushed and unions should be given time to negotiate extensions.

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he considered versions in other states that delayed implementation and those that had it go into effect right away. He argued the bill still would have to go through the Assembly and the guv would have some options before he had to sign the bill that could extend the window. Fitzgerald said that would be enough time for those who want to work out an extension and some unions wouldn’t be able to reach a new deal even if they were given 90 days.

“This is what this caucus felt comfortable with,” Fitzgerald said.

Dems expressed concern about leaving the issue of timing up to the Assembly.

“I’d rather figure it out here,” Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said.


 7:22 PM 

Senate votes down amendment six as Dems question if right-to-work could impact Packers, Bucks, Brewers

The Senate rejected amendment six as Dems questioned whether right-to-work impacts the state's professional sports franchises, including the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks.

The NFL Players Association issued a statement yesterday opposing the bill. The statement cited a concern for the ability of food and commercial workers who service players and fans at Lambeau Field “will have their wellbeing and livelihood jeopardized.”

But Dems focused their comments on a provision that anyone who forces someone to join a union or pay dues would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor. They questioned of any players could run afoul of the law, particularly since it does not specify who could be charged. But the drafting instructions single out "specifically someone who uses force, intimidation, etc. to compel any person to either join/support a labor organization or not join/support a labor organization is subject to this penalty." 

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, read an email he said was from Leg Counsel that suggested the law would apply to professional sports franchises.

“They are covered by this because a union is a union,” he said.


 7:01 PM 

Fitzgerald explains why penalty in bill is class A misdemeanor

Dems are now questioning a provision in the bill that anyone who compels someone to join a union or pay union dues is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

Dems are listing off a series of crimes that are also considered a class A misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to $10,000 and/or nine months in jail. Those crimes include fourth-degree sexual assault.

The drafting notes show the bill originally called for a $500 forfeiture before going to a $1,000 fine and then a class A misdemeanor.

Fitzgerald said the original $500 figure was something he pulled out of the air and it went to $1,000 as some wanted a stiffer penalty. He said conversations with Leg Counsel eventually led him to call for a class A misdemeanor as the cleanest approach considering the way statutes are written while getting to an appropriate penalty to underscore the severity of the offense while also staying away from a felony.


 6:48 PM 

Petrowski issues statement explaining planned no vote

GOP Sen. Jerry Petrowski, who indicated weeks ago he was unlikely to support right-to-work, issued a statement this evening affirming he will vote no, saying "I am keeping my word."

"Both sides in the debate have provided economic analysis to support their arguments, but none are definitive as to what actually causes the differences among the economies of different states," said Petrowski, R-Marathon. "I am not convinced that the supposed benefits of passing this bill will materialize and offset a potentially disruptive impact on our economy."

Petrowski called himself a "Ronald Reagan Republican" and noted like Reagan he was a union member for many years.

Petrowski's biography on the Legislature's website says he was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #1791.

"Under the law as it stands, unions are formed by a majority vote and everyone gets to choose where they work," he said.


 6:05 PM 

Fitzgerald moves to table school aid amendment



Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Vinehout's amendment to double aid to poor school districts is a laudable attempt to raise awareness of the problems associated with poverty, but moved to table it, saying it doesn't belong in the bill.

"I can't make a leap to this being part of the right-to-work bill," Fitzgerald said.

Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, said the amendment is needed to deal with the increase in poverty she said right to work would bring.



 5:42 PM 

Senate takes up school poverty aid amendment

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout introduced an amendment that would double aid to high poverty school districts.

The bill would increase aid by $16.8 million annually over the next two years.

Vinehout, D-Alma, said right to work would lead to more poverty and the amendment would address the consequences of it.

"RtW means less money in people's pockets," she said.



 5:38 PM 

Senate tables minimum wage amendment



The Senate tabled Sen. Bob Wirch's amendment to raise the minimum wage on an 18-14 party-line vote.

Wirch, D-Kenosha, spoke briefly about the bill, saying it would help low-income workers.

He noted that Fitzgerald said polls have backed right to work.

"You ain't seen nothing until you've see the polls on minimum wage," Wirch said.


 5:32 PM 

Senate takes up "just-cause" amendment

The Senate is now debating Amendment 3, which would require employers to show cause to fire an employee.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said Wisconsin is an "at-will" state in which employers do not need a reason to fire an employee and the language would change Wisconsin into a "just-cause" state.

Erpenbach said he views right to work as an attack on workers' rights and that the amendment would give some protection to workers,

"If we're taking away their rights, let's give them some protection in the whole scheme of things," Erpenbach said,

Fitzgerald said the amendment creates a new cause of action under wrongful discharge and places a new burden on employers. He said it should be taken up as separate legislation, but quipped that it would not be legislation he would author.

Erpenbach responded that Republicans have framed the bill as protecting workers rights.

"You can't be for workers in Wisconsin if you won't give them tools to protect their jobs and themselves," he said.

Sen. Tim Carpenter said some workers are "treated like dirt" and that the amendment would provide them protection.



 4:42 PM 

Hansen introduces amendment to boost tech college funding by $30 million annually

The Senate is now considering and amendment from Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, that would increase technical school funding by $30 million annually for the next two fiscal years.

Hansen said the funding boost is needed to make up for the potential loss of funding from unions for training programs.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said training would fall to technical colleges under right to work.

She praised the union trade facilities for the options they provide to young people.

She said while the tech colleges may provide training, the students would leave to other state that do not have right-to-work laws.

Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, recounted a story about a workplace death involving heavy equipment due to inadequate training.

She said the state faces a skills gap and that the right-to-work bill would make the situation worse.

Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said the training unions provide could go away under right to work. She noted that the training is provided free and allows workers to go into a job without student debt.

See the amendment: http://docs.legis.wi.gov/raw/proposal/2015/a0078


 4:36 PM 

Amendment to restore purpose statement defeated.

On another party line vote, the Senate voted to reject an amendment that would have restored the policy declaration in the employment relations statutes the right-to-work bill removes.

Speaking in favor of the amendment, Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said the bill and the striking of the policy declaration doesn't pass the smell test.

Bewley said that while Republicans have argued that the language is not necessary, she is suspicious it is trying to set up legislative intent.

"What is next?" Bewley said. "As soon as you set up legislative intent, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Sen. Dave Hanson, D-Green Bay, questioned who was pushing to delete the language,

"Did ALEC deleted those 30 lines, or did you?" he said.

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, said she was most stunned by the bill removing language related to the "process of justice."

She quoted the section: "While limiting individual and group rights of aggression and defense, the state substitutes processes of justice for the more primitive methods of trial by combat."

"It is not in anyone's interest ... to eliminate the 'process of justice' and return to 'the more primitive methods of trial by combat,'" Vinehout said.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said she believed it was a "drafting error" to remove the provision about employees receiving a "regular and adequate income." She said that in right-to-work states that incomes are lower and the bill would lead to lower wages in Wisconsin.


 3:56 PM 

Dems offer amendment to restore declaration of policy

The Senate has moved on to an amendment from Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, that would restore the declaration of policy in the employment peace subchapter of the employment relations statutes.

She noted that Gov. Scott Walker has said his budget proposal that removed language related to the "Wisconsin Idea" for the  UW System was the result of a drafting error and that she was hoping this was a drafting error, too.

Sen. Fred Risser, said nothing in the section relates to right-to-work and that it is good public policy akin to the Wisconsin idea for labor relations.

Fitzgerald responded the language was not necessary and does not affect the other parts of the right-to-work bill.

Here is the language SB44 would remove:

111.01 Declaration of policy. The public policy of the state as to employment relations and collective bargaining, in the furtherance of which this subchapter is enacted, is declared to be as follows:

(1) It recognizes that there are 3 major interests involved, namely: the public, the employee and the employer. These 3 interests are to a considerable extent interrelated. It is the policy of the state to protect and promote each of these interests with due regard to the situation and to the rights of the others.

(2) Industrial peace, regular and adequate income for the employee, and uninterrupted production of goods and services are promotive of all of these interests. They are largely dependent upon the maintenance of fair, friendly, and mutually satisfactory employment relations and the availability of suitable machinery for the peaceful adjustment of whatever controversies may arise. It is recognized that certain employers, including farmers, farmer cooperatives, and unincorporated farmer cooperative associations, in addition to their general employer problems, face special problems arising from perishable commodities and seasonal production which require adequate consideration. It is also recognized that whatever may be the rights of disputants with respect to each other in any controversy regarding employment relations, they should not be permitted, in the conduct of their controversy, to intrude directly into the primary rights of 3rd parties to earn a livelihood, transact business, and engage in the ordinary affairs of life by any lawful means and free from molestation, interference, restraint, or coercion.

(3) Negotiations of terms and conditions of work should result from voluntary agreement between employer and employee. For the purpose of such negotiation an employee has the right, if the employee desires, to associate with others in organizing and bargaining collectively through representatives of the employee’s own choosing, without intimidation or coercion from any source.

(4) It is the policy of the state, in order to preserve and promote the interests of the public, the employee, and the employer alike, to establish standards of fair conduct in employment relations and to provide a convenient, expeditious and impartial tribunal by which these interests may have their respective rights and obligations adjudicated. While limiting individual and group rights of aggression and defense, the state substitutes processes of justice for the more primitive methods of trial by combat.

History: 1985 a. 30 s. 42; 1993 a. 492; 1997 a. 253; 2005 a. 253, 441; 2007 a. 96. A labor agreement offering special parking privileges to county employees in a county ramp did not violate this section. Dane Co. v. McManus, 55 Wis. 2d 413, 198 N.W.2d 667 (1972).

This section does not create substantive rights for employees. Ward v. Frito−Lay, Inc. 95 Wis. 2d 372, 290 N.W.2d 536 (Ct. App. 1980). The application of the open meetings law to the duties of WERC is discussed. 68 Atty. Gen. 171.


 3:40 PM 

GOP shoots down motion to refer to committee

The Senate voted 14-18 along party lines to reject a motion to send right-to-work back to committee.

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, made the motion, noting yesterday’s public hearing was cut off early by Chair Steve Nass, leaving hundreds who wanted to testify shut out.

“We didn’t have a chance to finish yesterday, madame president,” said Larson, a member of the Labor and Government Reform Committee.

Larson said more people needed to have their voices heard in the debate and said people "have been shut out of their democracy."

He pointed to several businesses owners and people who identified as Republicans who testified against the bill, saying they have been "shut out of their democracy" and deserve to be heard.

Nass said there was a credible threat of a disruption and that the tone of the crowd changed toward the end of the hearing.

Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha, challenged that assessment and said the crowd was peaceful and kind and that there were no disruptions. Wirch sad there were ample police in the room to maintain order and safety.

But Sen. Van Wanggaard, noted the shouting at the end of the hearing and that police officers said they felt the situation was becoming threatening. As a former police officer, Wannggaard said if police had to use force, the dynamic could have changed.

Nass later said as he left the hearing "it was pretty testy" and said a police officer had to pin a person against the wall as Nass was being escorted out.

Two people interrupted him from the gallery as he spoke, and Nass said the outbursts were an example, though more subdued, of what occurred at the end of the hearing.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, scoffed that Republicans were worried about protests and essentially saying "democracy is a credible threat."

Roughy a dozen people were escorted from the gallery during the debate and immediately after the vote, one of them after shouting, "I am the credible threat!"

Larson said there is nothing more frustrating than not having your vioce heard.

"That's the reason for these disruptions," Larson said.

Dems used Laron's motion to rail against right-to-work.

Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, read the testimony from a constituent she said was not allowed to testify at Tuesday’s hearing, while Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, challenged Republicans about the kind of legacy they want to leave after departing the Senate, arguing they were taking the state to the path of becoming the Mississippi of the north.

“The idea that right-to-work is going to help build Wisconsin’s economy is fantasy. It’s not based in reality,” she said.

Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, said unions are needed to help people who are marginalized in the workplace.

Carpenter said the bill was being advanced as a way to bolster Walker's record as he runs for president.

"It's damaging our state," Carpenter said. "Instead of becoming Bloody Kansas during the slavery debate, it' becoming Bloody Wisconsin."


 3:20 PM 

Protestors await Senate vote

Pauline Gilbertson was convinced long before an official vote that the Senate would pass so-called right-to-work legislation.

Still, the retired public school teacher stayed in the midst of the hundreds of right-to-work protestors who gathered today outside Senate chambers, just as she stuck it out four years ago during the Act 10 protests.

“I believe it was a done deal going into this,” Gilbertson said. “The bill is directly out of the [American Legislative Exchange Council] playbook.

“I truly believe Scott Walker is pandering to conservatives to raise more dollars for a presidential bid.”

Chants of “Whose house? Our house” only occasionally drowned out Gilbertson’s voice as general murmuring and milling about replaced the more outspoken Act 10 protests of four years ago.

And, again unlike four years ago, it was easy to find a relatively quiet spot. Jim Mathews, of Baraboo, stood alone between two pillars on the Capitol’s third floor, looking over the railing at the protest scene.

The member of Steamfitters Local 434 said he already had talked to his Senate and Assembly representatives about right-to-work.

“If the representatives do what people spoke out and told them to do,” Mathews said, “then they’ll vote it down.”

Jeff Mehrhoff, business representative and governmental affairs director for the Painters & Allied Trades District Council 7, did not share even that small dose of optimism. He said more Republicans would stand up to right-to-work legislation if redistricting had not made their districts so conservative.

“They’re worried,” he said, “about getting primaried.”


 2:11 PM 

Fitzgerald: Right-to-work the most important jobs bill Legislature will take up this session

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called right-to-work the most important jobs bill lawmakers will take up over the next two years, saying passage will send a message to employers nationally.

Fitzgerald opened the debate by largely recounting the testimony he gave yesterday during a public hearing before the Labor and Government Reform Committee. After he concluded, Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, challenged Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, to identify a single job in Wisconsin that requires mandatory union membership after the majority leader said the bill is about worker freedom.

Fitzgerald declined to answer the question, drawing catcalls from the gallery. He said the question does not address why the Senate is on the floor today, arguing the debate should be around whether the legislation will have an impact on Wisconsin's economy, noting headlines about sluggish job growth in recent years.

"There’s a bill before us today that certainly sends a signal nationwide that Wisconsin now can be viewed in a different light than we were before," Fitzgerald said, singling out companies looking to locate or expand in Wisconsin.

Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, shot back the bill was a "Hail Mary to please outside special interest groups." She took a jab at Gov. Scott Walker for his national travels as he considers a bid for president while the state's economy is stagnant and wages are about to drop even further.

"This bill is going to drive down family wages, period," she said.

Shilling challenged Republicans not to turn their backs on the friends back home who will be hurt by the bill.

"Who will be the hero for the future of our state?" she asked.


 1:49 PM 

Unions rally against right-to-work



Chanting “What’s disgusting? Union-busting,” union members from across the state gathered outside the state Capitol today to protest so-called right-to-work legislation.

The state Department of Administration estimated between 1,800 and 2,000 people attended the rally, at which union leaders called on legislators to abandon right-to-work and focus on improving public schools, raising wages, rebuilding roads and making health care more affordable.

“This will end up being one of the darkest chapters in organized labor’s history if Wisconsin becomes the 25th state to succumb to a right-to-work law,” said Phil Gruber, of the machinists union.

Wisconsin’s adopting right-to-work, which would prohibit unions from requiring workers pay union dues or fees, would bring about unnecessary change that would hurt workers, said John Drew, international servicing representative for the United Auto Workers, adding that no one has been forced to join a union since 1947.




“Everything about right-to-work is a lie,” he said. “It’s a political attack on labor dressed up as worker freedom.”

And it is an attack that will succeed, said Tim Johnson, who traveled to the rally from Pewaukee and is a retired member of Laborers Local 113 in Milwaukee.

Johnson said he had more than one reason to attend the rally. He said he has two children in the University of Wisconsin System, which faces a $300 million cut through Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget, and his wife was in a union and hopes to retain her pension.

Still, Johnson said, right-to-work will pass in Wisconsin no matter what union members say.

“Hopefully, we’ll open other eyes to what’s going on,” he said, “not necessarily here, but in the rest of the country.”


 1:43 PM 

Protester taken out

Randy Bryce, a union member who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate last year as a Dem, was removed from the chamber after he stood and interrupted Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's opening statement on the bill.

"This bill is turning Wisconsin into a banana republic," said Bryce, a Racine iron worker.

The crowd responded with applause as Bryce was escorted out. A second protester then stood up and interrupted after Fitzgerald started speaking again.

That prompted a warning from President Mary Lazich that the gallery would be cleared if there were more outbursts.

Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, asked Lazich not to clear the entire gallery just because a couple of people chose to interrupt the proceedings.

"Duly noted. We have two strikes here," Lazich, said noting another interruption would tempt her to clear the gallery.



 12:29 PM 

Initially tally on hearing: 25 for right-to-work, 1,751 opposed

Twenty-five people spoke in favor of right-to-work at yesterday's hearing or registered in favor of the bill, while 1,751 opposed it, according to an initial tally from Chair Steve Nass' office.

Nass' office also said five people spoke or registered for informational purposes only, according to the initial tally. Nass, R-Whitewater, hoped the official Record of Committee Proceedings would be available tomorrow.




 11:37 AM 

Senate Dems accuse Republicans of using right-to-work to cover up failures on economy

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling today accused Republicans of using right-to-work to cover up for their failures on the economy, saying the state faces a $2.2 billion deficit and has seen sluggish job growth because of GOP policies.

"This is not an American Revival. It is not even a Wisconsin rebound," Shilling said, referencing the group Gov. Scott Walker formed as he looks at running for president.

Senate Dems highlighted three amendments they plan to introduce today: to increase the minimum wage, to preserve job training programs for skilled labor and to increase state aid to high poverty schools.

Shilling said each would be needed to offset the impact of right-to-work, which she said would lead to lower wages for Wisconsin workers.

Republicans currently have an 18-15 majority in the Senate with one vacancy, and Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, has said he is unlikely to support the bill. Shilling, D-La Crosse, offered a warning to the other Senate Republicans as she pleaded with them to listen to those who showed up at the Capitol to testify against the bill.

"Mark my words. Every one of the Senate Republicans who votes for this will be the 17th vote that made this happen," she said.



 11:31 AM 

Barca, Shankland rip Walker over right-to-work

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, used phrases such as “Looney Tunes” and “weasel words” Wednesday when discussing what he called Gov. Scott Walker’s about-face on so-called right-to-work legislation.

“It is so clear at every step,” Barca said, “that the governor misleads people about what his goals are, what his intentions are.”

During a press conference Wednesday, Barca, who accused Walker of trying to build national support by backing right-to-work, and Assistant Minority Leader Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, presented a video of Walker taken during the debate of Act 10. Barca, prior to the press conference, referred to the video as a “Wisconsin version of Looney Tunes.”

In the video, Walker said Act 10 did not represent a battle with unions.

“If it was, we would have eliminated collective bargaining entirely,” Walker said in the video, “or we would have gone after the private-sector unions.”

In the video, Walker also referred to private-sector unions as "our partners in economic development."

Walker recently has said he would sign right-to-work legislation, which prohibits unions from requiring workers pay union dues or fees.

The timing of right-to-work legislation and Walker’s acknowledgement that he would sign it is not a coincidence, Barca and Shankland said. Rather, they said, it is meant to distract people from Walker’s budget proposal, which, among other things, cuts $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System.

“The governor is not just a flip-flopper,” Shankland said, “he is a master manipulator.”

See the video.


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