The state Senate voted Tuesday to pass a bill that would ban municipalities from putting in place labor laws that go beyond state laws.
The bill’s supporters say uniformity of labor laws would make it easier on employers. But opponents worry it will tip power toward the state and strip employees of certain protections.
The bill would bar cities and counties from making their own ordinances related to hours, overtime and benefits if those measure go beyond state laws.
Assembly author of the bill Republican Rep. Rob Hutton said at a public hearing on the proposal last month that it would prevent patchwork employment laws around the state.
He says that would save business owners the time and hassle of navigating different labor standards.
“This establishes certainty for employees so that they know that they may receive the same treatment from the business and the government no matter where they’re located,” Hutton says.
But Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout doesn’t see a variety of different labor standards as a problem. She says often, counties have particular industries that require certain different standards, especially counties with tourism driven economies.
“I just for the life of me just cant figure out what problem this bill is solving,” Vinehout says. “Counties association … they’re concerned they’re not going to be able to regulate employee overtime hours discrimination benefits in any particular industry in their county.”
The bill would also ban cities and counties from setting a minimum wage that’s higher than the state’s minimum wage for its own employees and those it contracts with.
Here in Madison, the city’s Office of Civil Rights says the bill would strip away extra protected employment statuses the city has that the state doesn’t protect.
Democratic Representative Janet Bewley says while the measure would affect many parts of the state, rural areas would be disproportionately affected.
“Now they will have even less ability to be able to protect the people that live in rural Wisconsin,” Bewley says. “This is not necessarily targeted at rural (areas,) but it will affect the neglected regions of the state even more than those portion of the state that receive all the benefits
The Senate did not take up an amendment from the Assembly that would have made it clear that the bill doesn’t apply to Foxconn — the foreign electronics manufacturer that plans to build a massive manufacturing facility in rural Racine County.
That means the bill will have to go back to the Assembly before moving to the governor’s desk.