Before the right-to-work law, employers and labor organizations could make deals to ensure that all employees join a single labor union. Consequently, companies could deduct union membership dues from the salaries of their employees. Several states, such as Florida, Arizona, and Texas among others, have adopted a similar law with an aim to weaken unions. Wisconsin became the 25th state to adopt the rule when Governor Scott Walker signed the bill in March 2015. This essay describes the Wisconsin right-to-work law as well as examines the role of various stakeholders in the enactment and passing of the law along with consideration of the purpose and impact of the legislation.
Description of the Law
The 2015 Wisconsin Act 1 applies to employees and their employers in the private sector. The law forbids the employer from entering into deals with labor organizations in order to compel workers to join the movement as a condition for employment. Therefore, the law abolished specific requirements of employment. Compelling a worker to join or resign from a union has become illegal for an entrepreneur, as well as enticing the employees to pay fees or any money to a labor organization or to pay a third party any amount of money that is equivalent to the dues.
The Role of the Various Stakeholders in the Establishment of the Law
In the political sector, the law received both support and opposition from the political opponents. The members of the Republican Party were at the forefront of advocating for the law. The apparent reason was that the majority of the middle class were members of the party, and thus, they required a favor from the political class. The members of the Democratic Party in the state condemned the development, and in their perspective, Governor Scott’s actions were a political ploy in the disguise of job creation.
In the business sector, the creation of the law also received both support and opposition. The directors of some construction companies were worried that the law would harm their business, and hence, they aired out their disapproval to the political elite. However, some business executives, such as Richard Meeusen, who was the Chief Executive Officer at a pipe company where Scott sat as he signed the bill, spoke frankly about his support of the Bill.
At the labor union level, the law earned criticism from the leaders of various organizations. Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employee International Union, declared that the law depicted how Governor Scott perceived Wisconsin workers and their families as enemies (as cited in Moberg, 2015). Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that Scott aimed at winning the nomination in the Republican Party, and thus, he could do anything, even attacking or tearing workers (as cited in Moberg, 2015). Additionally, the United Steel Workers District 2, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, and the Machinists Local Lodge 1061 filed a case against the Wisconsin State in the attempt to seek a court’s reversal of the ruling.
The Purpose of the Law
According to Moberg (2015), the Wisconsin republicans established the law to lower the construction workers’ salaries by eliminating the then Wisconsin wage laws as well as the labor agreements. Therefore, republicans created the law for reduction of the collective bargaining power of employees as a ploy to satisfy their middle-class affiliates. To the entrepreneurs, such as Richard Meeusen, who supported the legislation, the act was aimed at facilitating the exploitation of workers to pay them peanuts. Hence, the law served the purpose of enabling the likes of Meeusen to further expand their selfish economic gains. Moberg (2015) also argues that the Wisconsin Governor Scott had the motivation of winning political support, and thus, he had to please the middle-class families by enabling them with legal tools to conquer the collective bargaining of workers.
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The Impact of the Legislation
The laws weakened the workers’ unions that protect the rights of employees by reversing the compulsory membership. By disabling the unions, the workers remain in discord, and therefore, they have no power to fight for their rights. By killing the employees’ bargaining power, the law exposes them to exploitation by their chiefs. Therefore, the law favors the wealthy middle class at the expense of the impoverished working class. Due to the negative impact on wages, the law may also fuel workers’ migration in search of places with higher payment opportunities.
In this regard, the law is able to expand the gap of economic inequality in the state, like in the case of Illinois. Specifically, the legislation limits the bargaining power of employees by practically destroying their unions. As a consequence, employees become vulnerable and unable to defend their rights, and thus, they earn low salaries and wages. On the other hand, the law enables the employers or the middle class who own business to exploit workers, hence, increasing their revenues. Therefore, the state without employment restrictions gives business people a chance to invest and enrich themselves. Hence, this development will lead to increased disparities between the wealthy and the have-nots. Apart from that, people who derive their income directly from the unions will have to suffer as the weakened unions may not have the capacity to remunerate them accordingly.
The law also attracted legal battles as the United Steel Workers District 2, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, and the Machinists Local Lodge 1061 filed a case against the Wisconsin State to pull down the law. The unions argued that the law would cause harm to them if it continues to exist. The leaders of the union also claimed that the law was unconstitutional as it robbed off the workers through constraining their fair representation based on the federal law. The leaders said that to provide effective collective bargaining for employees, there must be unions that represent the majority of workers as exclusive protection. The court issued orders halting the law on April 2016 pending the hearing and determination of the case.
Additionally, the bill resulted in intensified political debates between republicans and democrats. The latter accused Scott and the Republican Party of playing politics under the veil of creating jobs. The party further accused Scott of raising his standing as the choice for the Republican presidential nominee since his efforts aimed at helping the Republicans to build a favorable electoral muscle for 2016 elections by weakening unions that provide strength and finances to the Democrats. President Barrack Obama heavily criticized the law and termed it as anti-workers law, and he also launched a scathing attack on Scott. He argued that laborers have built Wisconsin and that the governor should not celebrate defeating the same people but should instead position as their rescuer by promoting higher wages and salaries.
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According to Opoien (2016), the proponents of the law assert that it is set to boost the economy of Wisconsin by reducing the expenditure on salaries and the associated employee benefits, and thus, it will reduce the labor costs. The group also claims that the law is able to remove the restrictions that discourage foreign investors from setting up businesses in the state. The supporters argue that by eliminating such limitations, the Wisconsin state will become a favorable destination for investors, hence promoting the business that translates to more employment and the growth of the Wisconsin economy.
The Wisconsin Act 1 is a legislation enacted in the Wisconsin state in 2015. The law prohibited employers from signing agreements with unions to require workers to join the unions as a condition of employment. The Bill received both support and opposition from different groups of stakeholders, such as politicians, businesses, ordinary people, as well as unions. The significance of the law is broad as it affects the society economically, politically, and socially. The law weakened labor unions by lowering the bargaining power of employees. In addition, the law has the potential to widen the gap of economic disparity by subjecting the employees to oppression while enriching the middle and upper class. The Bill also led to the legal battles as several unions joined together to challenge the legality of the law. Moreover, the law intensified political wars between the Republicans and Democrats as they had conflicting perceptions of the law. For instance, the proponents argued that it promoted employment and economic growth.
In any case, the future of the law is uncertain given that the court halted it pending determination of the case. Because the law is a product of Republicanism while the democrats strongly oppose its enactment, it might be hard to predict its future. This is not clear whether the republicans will maintain the gubernatorial seat in the forthcoming elections or whether they will lose to democrats. However, when the employers tend to oppress workers through low salaries, the employees will vigorously oppose the law, and therefore, the unions will continue challenging the legality of the law in the court to protect their interests.
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