MADISON (WITI) — It took 24 hours, but the state Assembly has passed a Right-to-Work bill. With the governor's signature, Wisconsin will become the 25th state to adopt the controversial legislation.
The vote was divided strictly along party lines. Prior to that vote, a 24-hour debate session, an all-nighter at the Capitol. Even on that, republicans and democrats couldn't agree on how to best spend that time.
A debate can go in a number of directions over the course of 24 hours. Starting Thursday morning, the Wisconsin Assembly debates Right-to-Work, which would make it illegal for union membership, or the payment of union dues, to be a condition of employment.
The democrats, outnumbered, spend the vast majority of the afternoon and evening pushing to send the bill to the small business committee and thereby avoiding a final vote -- much to the dismay of republicans.
"18 hours of debate about a referral as opposed to a real, meaningful, spirited, engaging debate that the public in Wisconsin deserved," said Assembly Speaker, Robin Vos.
Opponents argue the bill provides false protection, that those who don't want to join a union can choose to work in a non-union shop or change the union from within.
"If you don't like your union, you can run for office in that union, you can even get half the unit to decertify the union and the union goes away," said State Representative Cory Mason.
Supporters of the bill say a worker's choice should be far more simple.
"It is about one simple thing, giving every worker who wants to be in a union the right to be in one but if they don't want to choose to be in a union, they can't be compelled," said Vos.
Democrats argue the problem with that logic is it will sink unions because down the road, only a fraction of the workers they will represent will choose to pay dues.
"If you have a gym membership, and all of a sudden you stopped paying but you were able to still go, would you stop going to the gym? I don't think you would," said State Representative Mandela Barnes.
Republicans point to Indiana, where union membership increased after it passed Right-to-Work.
After a final hour of debate, lawmakers record a final tally -- the bill passed on Friday on a 62-35 vote.
"We're now gonna be number 25 and that is awesome," said State Representative Chris Kapenga.
The Wisconsin state Assembly has passed a right-to-work bill on a straight party line vote.
The bill passed Friday on a 62-35 vote, with all Republicans in support and all Democrats against. The Senate passed it last week.
Democrats had initially hoped to amend the bill so that Right-to-Work wouldn't take effect for another 3 months. However, the bill will be effective once the governor signs it.
Violation of the law is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 9 months in jail.
Critics argue that is unreasonably harsh, supporters say there's no point having the law if it doesn't have teeth.