As full Assembly gets set to take up Right-to-Work, WI AFL-CIO mobilizing workers for Capitol rally

MADISON (WITI/AP) -- As the Wisconsin Assembly plans for 24 hours of debate on Right-to-Work legislation beginning Thursday morning, March 5th, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO is mobilizing workers. A rally is planned for noon at the Capitol in Madison.

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO said this in a statement issued to FOX6 News:

"Continuing a week of action and hours of public testimony, Wisconsin workers will rally on Thursday, March 5th at noon at the state Capitol in Madison as the Assembly begins debate on Right-to-Work. Working people will come together with faith leaders and community members to oppose the undemocratically rushed process to pass Right-to-Work as well as the harmful impact of the bill on countless Wisconsin families. Right-to-Work legislation will lower wages, decrease workplace safety and weaken worker rights for all of Wisconsin’s workers.

Workers have provided hours upon hours of testimony in opposition to Right-to-Work, and delivered thousands of petitions to legislators against the bill. Despite outcry from citizens, Republicans are fast-tracking Right-to-Work legislation that will impact every Wisconsinite, union and non-union. Wisconsin citizens will continue to participate in democracy and make their voices heard by rallying at the Capitol this Thursday at noon."

The following speakers plan to be part of the rally at the Capitol Thursday:

    The Wisconsin Assembly plans to start debate of the Right-to-Work bill at 9:00 a.m. Thursday, March 5th and end no later than 9:00 a.m. Friday, March 6th.

    Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke said Tuesday that the 24 hours of debate time was negotiated with Democrats. He says Democrats wanted 48 hours of debate.

    The Assembly Labor Committee met Wednesday, March 4th to consider changes to the Right-to-Work bill, although it's nearly certain that none will be adopted. Republicans who control the Assembly agreed to hold the meeting Wednesday in negotiations with Democrats who objected to the original plan that did not include holding an executive session on the measure.

    Assembly Democrats, in a press release issued to FOX6 News have outlined four amendments Democrats on the Assembly's Labor Committee will offer in the next executive session, including: a 90-day delay to give businesses more certainty and time to finalize any contracts; removing criminal penalties so business owners don’t face jail time and a $10,000 fine; restoring the preamble which emphasizes the importance of labor peace; and sunsetting the law if wages drop.

    “Democrats on the Labor Committee plan to offer simple, common-sense amendments to this bill. We hope that Republicans will join us in making these simple changes to the ‘Right to Work’ bill that will make reasonable accommodations for businesses that would need to adjust to drastic, immediate changes to our state law," Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) said.

    The Right-to-Work bill passed the Senate last week, so if the Assembly changes it the Senate will have to vote again.

    Twenty-four other states have passed similar legislation to prohibit businesses and unions from reaching agreements requiring all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues. Supporters say workers should get to decide about joining. Opponents contend it'll reduce worker pay.

    The bill would prevent private businesses from entering labor agreements with unions that force workers to pay union fees. The controversial legislation states "No person may require, as a condition or obtaining or continuing employment..." that a worker "pay any a labor organization." A violation, by businesses or unions, would carry criminal penalties of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

    The full Senate passed Right-to-Work legislation last week in a 17-15 vote.

    Governor Walker has said he would sign Right-to-Work legislation if it made its way to his desk. In fact, on Wednesday, Walker said he plans to sign the bill into law on Monday, March 9th.

    Related stories: