February 27, 2015

AP Report on Wisconsin Right to Work Move Presents Union Side Only

A couple of thousand protesters have showed up to rail against the Wisconsin Legislature’s move to pass right to work legislation this week.

That number is far smaller than what was seen four years ago, when Badger State Governor Scott Walker championed Act 10, a budget repair bill which limited — but please note, contrary to frequent press assertions, did not eliminate — most public-sector unions’ collective bargaining rights. Todd Richmond’s Wednesday evening coverage of the situation in Madison at the Associated Press got plenty of perspectives from union members and others upset with the legislature’s latest move, but predictably failed to get any insights from right to work supporters or those skeptical of protesters’ positions. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds and numbereed tags are mine):


For two straight days this week, 2,000 union members converged on Wisconsin’s Capitol to rally against a new right-to-work bill, chanting, marching and hurling profanities at GOP lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker. [1]

The tone of the rallies has been bitter and angry but hasn’t come close to matching the energy that coursed through the building four years ago during massive protests against Walker’s proposal to strip public workers of most of their union rights. [2] This time around, union members said Republicans are moving too fast to organize large crowds. Some have even conceded it’s a lost cause and the governor is bound to score another victory against organized labor.

“People are tired,” said Gerry Miller, a 44-year-old welder from Milwaukee and United Steelworkers member who joined Wednesday’s rally. “You do have a moral base that feels helpless.” [3]

In 2011, public unions had weeks to organize and hold daily rallies against what became known as Act 10 because minority Democrats in the Senate decided to flee to Illinois [4] in an ultimately futile attempt to block a vote in that chamber.

The Senate needed a quorum to vote on Act 10 because it had a fiscal effect on the state, a requirement Republicans eventually got around by stripping the fiscal elements out of the measure so they could pass it without the Democrats. Leaving the state wouldn’t help Democrats this time. The right-to-work bill has no state fiscal effect.

“(Republicans have) gotten smarter,” said Perry Kettner, leader of the Milwaukee and Madison Allied Printing Trades Council. “They’re trying to push it through quickly when people can’t come in. On a weekend when workers get out of the factories, they’d be here.” [5]

Right-to-work also doesn’t have the novelty or scope of Act 10. [6]

… Union membership has declined in Wisconsin, too. Last year, 11.7 percent of public- and private-sector workers combined belonged to unions, based on figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – down from 12.3 percent in 2013 and 14.2 percent in 2010. [7]

Miller acknowledged the bill will pass, which means unions will have no choice but to work harder to convince people to join them. [6]


[1] — Well, the numbers are lower, but I see that the incivility level is just as high. And to be clear, passing right to work was the Legislature’s idea, not Walker’s. The AP Scott Bauer acknowledged that late last week.

[2] — “The energy that coursed through the building”? Todd Richmond is coming off as a nostalgist, longing for the good old days of property destruction and death threats. I should also note that Act 10 did not affect “firefighters and most law enforcement workers.” Richmond’s text incorrectly implies that all public workers were impacted.

[3] — So the “moral base” is the group which is out there currently shouting profanities, and which four years ago engaged in property destruction and death threats? Okey-dokey, Mr. Miller.

[4] — The public-sector unions were already organized and demonstrating in large numbers before Democrats illegally — a word the press has almost never used to describe actions which were indeed illegal — fled to Illinois. Contempt orders were filed against those who fled.

[5] — So the Legislature is supposed to meet over a weekend for the convenience of protesters? Really?

[6] (tagged twice) — Whether right to work has the scope of Act 10 is debatable. Act 10 only affected much, but not all, of the public sector. Right to work affects all Wisconsin workers’ rights. Every worker will have the ability to opt out of paying union dues if they feel they aren’t being represented adequately or if they are philosophically opposed to joining one. So yes, unions are “going to have to work harder to convince people to join them.” Welcome to the real world, guys.

Longer-term, based on results seen elsewhere, right to work is likely to make Wisconsin more competitive against other states, particularly those which are not right to work, including neighboring Illinois and Minnesota.

[7] — Act 10 enabled many public-sector workers who did not want to be union members to end their memberships simply by not paying dues. A “woe is us” report in the Washington Post earlier this week noted the following:

The state branch of the National Education Association, once 100,000 strong, has seen its membership drop by a third. The American Federation of Teachers, which organized in the college system, saw a 50 percent decline. The 70,000-person membership in the state employees union has fallen by 70 percent.

Wisconsin’s right to work law will enable all workers to have the choice to stay or go.

As noted earlier, Richmond did not consult with anyone supporting right to work or even anyone skeptical of opponents’ positions or motivations. That’s pretty much been par for the course for AP reports out of Wisconsin for several years.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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