by Félix Pérez
Wisconsin Gov. Walker rose to national prominence for all the wrong reasons immediately after being elected to office four years ago. He used a budget bill as a ruse to silence the voice of educators, education support professionals, nurses, home health care workers and other public employees.
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Walker is again making national headlines, and, just as in 2011, they are not flattering. This time he’s coming under withering criticism for pushing so-called right-to-work legislation that targets the ability of private sector workers to have a say in their workplace. The bill is taken word-for-word from the ALEC legislative playbook.
The governor’s recent announcement that he will sign the bill comes after repeated statements that he had no intention of implementing ALEC’s model legislation. Take, for instance, when he said, “It’s not going to get to my desk. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure it isn’t there . . .” Or when he stated unequivocally, “I have no interest in pursuing right-to-work legislation in this state.”
In light of Walker’s likening of the more than 100,000 educators, students, farmers and workers who protested in 2011 against his policies to ISIS terrorists, the governor’s flip flop comes as little surprise.
Racine, Wisc., teacher Betsy Kippers, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said in a statement:
Committed teachers pour their hearts into our schools every single day. They volunteer at church and in their communities and build a better future for all of us when they teach the children. It’s disgusting that Governor Walker would compare everyday heroes – educators – to international terrorists. It shows the depths he will sink to in order to promote his own self-interest.
Thousands of workers are rallying at the Wisconsin state capitol grounds today to protest the right-to-work bill. The legislation passed the Senate on Wednesday and is expected to go before the Assembly next week. Both houses are controlled by Republicans.
The protester-ISIS terrorist comparison by Walker, a presumptive candidate for president in 2016, drew the attention of an educator from the state with the nation’s first presidential primary.
Scott McGilvray, president of NEA New Hampshire, said the governor’s statements “gives us a clear indication of who Scott Walker is and what he thinks of working middle-class families. To mention teachers, para-professionals, custodians, cafeteria workers, guidance counselors, school nurses, assistants, bus drivers and crossing guards, the hard working backbone of our public education system, who dedicate their lives for each and every child in their care, and in some instances have even given their lives to protect those children, in the same sentence as any terrorist organization, let alone one as brutal as ISIS, is reprehensible and quite frankly disqualifies him for any public office.”
Advocates of right-to-work, such as Walker, ALEC and the Koch brothers, contend the policy creates jobs. Research and experience, however, show right-to-work laws lower wages and benefits, weaken workplace protections and decrease the likelihood that employers will be required to negotiate with their employees.
“What the most rigorous research shows is that all other things being equal, the impact of adopting a right-to-work law in 2015 is to lower wages by about 3% for both union and nonunion workers across the state and to lower the chance of getting health insurance or pensions,” said Gordon Lafer, a political economist and an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center.
Another research study concluded that non right-to-work states are:
[S]ignificantly healthier, are more productive, have less poverty, and with citizens who enjoy longer life spans. In four of the seven measures (GDP per capita, poverty, insurance and life expectancy rates) so-called ‘right-to-work’ states come out significantly (and statistically) worse.
Central as he is in serving as the national standard bearer for the special interests behind right-to-work, Walker is not alone. Other extremist lawmakers are sponsoring legislation in their states.
- The Missouri House passed a bill this week. It now goes to the state Senate.
- The New Mexico House passed legislation this week. The Senate is expected to take up the bill.
Some state lawmakers, however, are listening to their constituents. The West Virginia Senate Majority Leader, Mitch Carmichael, who sponsored a right-to-work bill this year, announced yesterday that the bill will not be put up for a vote.