Scott Walker Guts Unions With ALEC Law

Governor Scott Walker signed a measure on Monday making Wisconsin a right-to-work state and, effectively, restricting collective bargaining. The law kicks in immediately. The law makes it illegal for unions to require dues, a fact which impedes worker bargaining and keeps wages low. The laws first became popular in the Deep South during the 1930s as a means of maintaining segregation.

Despite his infamous anti-union politics (which led to massive protests in 2011), Walker had previously declared he had no interest in making Wisconsin a right-to-work state. "We're not going to pursue that in the remainder of our term," he said in 2012, "and we're not going to pursue it in the future. The reason is private-sector unions are my partner in economic development."

However, Walker embraced the idea after Republican lawmakers were able to fast-track the process and push the measure through the  Legislature in less than two weeks. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the bill that Wisconsin Republicans developed is taken word-for-word from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation. “This freedom-to-work legislation will give workers the freedom to choose whether or not they want to join a union, and employers another compelling reason to consider expanding or moving their business to Wisconsin,” said Walker.

While none of this is especially surprising, Walker's most recent move might be a launchpad for loftier goals. With no frontrunner for the 2016 GOP nomination, the Governor now gets to travel the country and brag about how he took on his state's unions and prevailed. Additionally, as the New York Times points out, many progressives believe that, "the new laws throughout the region are intended to help Republicans build a favorable electoral map for 2016, by weakening the labor groups that have traditionally provided muscle and money to Democratic candidates in crucial swing states."

Wisconsin joins Indiana and Michigan in passing such a law, marking a striking political shift in the Midwest. It remains to be seen what kind of resistance develops.

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