Last week the Wisconsin Legislature held an Extraordinary Session to debate SB-44, Wisconsin’s so-called “Right to Work” bill. The bill attracted thousands of protestors, and hundreds lined up to testify at the Senate’s public hearing last Tuesday. At 6:30 p.m., with scores still waiting their turn to speak, Senate chair Steve Nass abruptly closed the hearing, exiting the room with his Republican colleagues, where they quickly held a closed session and recommended the bill to the full Senate. The next day, the Senate voted to approve SB-44 by a vote of 17 – 15. Senator Jerry Patrowski of Marathon was the only Republican to break ranks. Now it’s the Assembly’s turn, which is expected to vote on the bill later this week.
But what is “Right to Work?” What does it mean, and why does it have Wisconsin’s private sector unions so riled up? Alexia Kurwiec is an Assistant Professor with the University of Wisconsin Extension’s School for Workers. Before that, she served as legal counsel for a number of unions for 18 years. Alexia joins us by phone now.