Wisconsin is no stranger to the fight for worker freedom. Who can forget the protests that rocked Madison when then-Gov. Scott Walker brought about several much-needed labor reforms via Act 10? And then the numerous legal challenges against Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, which passed in 2015 and, thankfully, has been upheld again and again?
Thanks to Act 10 and right-to-work, both public- and private-sector workers are free to choose whether to join a union, without fear of retribution. In addition to greater freedom, they also have greater prosperity – Act 10 saved taxpayers more than $5 billion (around $2,291 per household) over five years, and our right-to-work law has helped make Wisconsin one of the best states for business.
Now the drama over workers’ protections is taking place on the national stage. Given how these pro-growth reforms have powered Wisconsin’s economic progress over the last decade, it’s disconcerting to see our U.S. House Reps. Mark Pocan, Gwen Moore and Ron Kind cosponsor a bill that would undermine right-to-work laws in more than two dozen states and threaten constitutionally guaranteed protections for workers that were reaffirmed by last year’s landmark Janus vs. AFSCME Supreme Court decision.
Don’t want to join the union and pay dues? Under the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, unions could penalize you anyway, to the point of getting you fired. It also allows unions to get rid of secret-ballot elections, making it easier to further harass you if you don’t want to sign up.
And the coercion won’t stop when you leave the workplace, either. The bill would force employers to be unwilling partners in invading their employees’ privacy by requiring them to hand over home addresses, personal email addresses and mobile and home phone numbers.
Not only would the PRO Act undermine protections for Wisconsin workers, it would jeopardize the Badger State’s aforementioned economic growth.
If we want to keep growing, we’ve got to attract more businesses to the state. And businesses looking to relocate or expand absolutely consider whether a state has right-to-work laws on the books. Private sector job growth rates are more than 1.3 times higher in right-to-work states than they are in states whose workers aren’t free to choose whether to join a union.
And Wisconsin workers want that freedom. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of Wisconsinites that are represented by a union has declined since 2015 – the year right-to-work passed in Wisconsin. Though correlation is not causation, the numbers suggest that, when given the choice, workers want to be free to direct their livelihood as they see fit. They don’t want to be forced to join a union or pay dues to support political causes with which they disagree.
The PRO Act would restrict these choices and strip employees of their hard-fought workplace protections. So why are Reps. Pocan, Moore and Kind attempting to restrict this freedom by cosponsoring this disastrous bill? If they really want to help the workers they campaigned to serve, they should rethink supporting the PRO Act.
Eric Bott is the Wisconsin state director for Americans for Prosperity.