(Reuters) – Wisconsin Republicans plan to call an extraordinary session to fast-track a right-to-work bill in the state legislature next week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said on Friday.
Governor Scott Walker, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, supports the policy and will sign it into law if the bill makes it to his desk, a spokeswoman said Friday.
So-called right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to join and financially support a union – such as by paying dues – as a condition of their employment.
The announcement drew immediate criticism from Democrats and a union leader in Wisconsin, where Republican lawmakers in 2011 approved restrictions on collective bargaining for most public-sector unions except police and fire amid large demonstrations.
Republicans’ control of both sides of the Wisconsin Legislature and the governor’s mansion leaves a clear path for passage of right-to-work legislation, which is already law in two dozen states, including nearby Michigan and Indiana.
Fitzgerald told reporters that legislative leaders had been discussing the proposal since December and he had only just received enough firm commitments from senators to approve the bill.
“My experience as leader is, when you have the votes you go to the floor,” he said. “You don’t wait around.”
The session would only address the right-to-work measure, which would be heard in the Senate labor committee on Tuesday with the full Senate taking it up on Wednesday, Fitzgerald said.
The state Assembly would take up the bill the week of March 2, he said.
The proposal does not make exceptions for trade unions, cover police or fire unions, or affect current contracts or extensions reached before its approval, Fitzgerald said. It would take effect upon Walker’s signature.
Capitol police have been told about the possibility the session could attract larger crowds to Madison, he said.
“I just have my fingers crossed that this isn’t going to turn into something that is similar to Act 10,” he said, referring to the 2011 demonstrations. “It’s still a concern.”
Fitzgerald said supporters would aim to make the case a right-to-work law could attract jobs Wisconsin is losing to other states and protect existing manufacturing jobs.
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, said a right-to-work law would not create jobs and would lower wages for all workers in the state.
“Rushing this legislation through in an extraordinary session is a slap in the face to our democracy,” he said in a statement.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Leslie Adler and Bill Trott)