Right-to-Work legislation heads to the Assembly; public hearing set for Monday morning

MADISON (WITI) -- The Wisconsin Assembly on Monday, March 2nd will take up "Right-to-Work" legislation. This, after the Wisconsin Senate last week voted 17-15 to send Senate Bill 44 to the Assembly. On Monday morning, the Assembly Committee on Labor will begin debating Assembly Bill 61, and the debate will include public testimony. This, as Governor Walker said on FOX News Sunday he expects to sign the legislation by the end of this week.

It is anticipated public testimony could go into Monday night.

Union leaders and others opposed to this legislation have planned to rally in Madison again Monday as the Assembly takes up this bill. A spokesman for the Department of Administration said between 2,500 and 3,000 people gathered at the Capitol for a rally Saturday. There were about 2,000 there for rallies last Tuesday and Wednesday. This, as more than 1,700 testified before the Senate's Labor Committee, with 70 people speaking against the bill for every one person who spoke in favor of it.

Republicans are determined to pass the bill, framing Right-to-Work as a debate over workplace freedom and union requirements. Opponents say the proposal is designed to weaken union influence and make it easier for corporations to decrease worker's wages.

The controversial legislation states “No person may require, as a condition or obtaining or continuing employment…” that a worker “pay any dues…to a labor organization.” A violation, by businesses or unions, would carry criminal penalties of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine. The legislation is expected to pass the Republican-dominated Assembly. Republicans hold a 63 to 36 majority over the Democrats in the Assembly.

Last week, as they prepared to begin debating the legislation, Assembly Democrats joined together to lay out their expectations and plans for this week's public hearing.

Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee), Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) and Rep. Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha) joined together to share their concerns about the silencing of public input during the Senate Labor Committee’s hearing Tuesday, February 24th — and outline a plan to ensure every effort is made to allow for public input this time around.

On Thursday, the morning after a first round of defeat, Democrats were pointing the finger at Governor Scott Walker. On Tuesday, Walker said his 2012 campaign promise to block Right-to-Work legislation only applied to his first term in office.