Midwest states are focus of a new push for Right-To-Work in 2011

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December 10, 2010

By Kyle Maichle

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin: With Republicans winning key state legislative and gubernatorial battles in 2010, a new push for Right-To-Work in the Midwest will be a issue to watch in 2011.

The states of Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin are considering Right-To-Work legislation. Currently, the only states in the Midwest that have Right-To-Work laws are Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota[1]. Right-To-Work is a law that forbids mandatory union membership or the payment of union dues as a condition of employment[2].

In the Show-Me-State, the new President Pro-Temp of the Missouri Senate Rob Mayer, sponsored legislation for the 2011 session to make Missouri Right-To-Work[3]. This is not the first time Right-To-Work was considered there. In 1978, Missourians voted on Issue 23 to make Missouri Right-To-Work. Issue 23 was rejected by the voters. In 1978, Missouri was one the top five states in the nation for union membership at 25 percent[3]. In 2010, only 11.2 percent of its citizens are union members[3]. Despite the GOP controls both houses of the General Assembly, passage of Right-To-Work could face a veto threat from Democrat Governor Jay Nixon who faces re-election in 2012[3]. Even if the bill gets vetoed, GOP lawmakers in Missouri could use the initiative process to get "Right to Work" on the 2012 ballot[3].

The Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity has been advocating for the Wolverine State to become Right-To-Work since 2007[4]. The Michigan chapter of the national economic advocacy group has been pressuring the Michigan Legislature to sign a bill into law or use the initiative process to put "Right-to-Work" on the ballot[5]. However, incoming Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville was reluctant about putting "Right-to-Work" on it's 2011 agenda[6]. Richardville told a Michigan radio station that the state's economic recovery could be disrupted if mandatory union membership is prohibited[6]. The Senator cited that 20 percent of Michiganders are union members[6]. The comments of the incoming Senate Majority Leader has earned him criticism from the state's top conservative organizations like the Macinkac Center who want Michigan to be Right-To-Work[6].

Empowered by Republicans regaining control of both houses of the Indiana Legislature, lawmakers filed a bill for the 2011 session to make the Hoosier State Right-To-Work[7]. State Rep. Wes Culver, who is the lead sponsor of the bill, said that Right-To-Work is necessary to improve economic growth in Indiana. Right-To-Work was the law in Indiana from 1956 to 1965 until it was repealed. However, Rep. Culver told the Anderson Herald-Bulletin that the bill will have a tough fight ahead in the new session as lawmakers are focusing on balancing the state budget. The Indiana Chapter of the AFL-CIO has sad that stopping Right-To-Work legislation is their top priority for 2011[7].

With Wisconsin Republicans regaining control of both houses of the Legislature, the possibility of the Badger State becoming Right-To-Work is on the radar screen[8]. Incoming Senate President Scott Fitzgerald told WisPolitics.com that the momentum for Right-to-Work is unprecedented citing a large amount of discussion between lawmakers in his caucus on the issue[8]. Fitzgerald told attendees of a luncheon hosted by WisPolitics on December 8, 2010, that new Senate members want reforms of state labor laws and argued Right-to-Work could part of a strategy for improving the state's economy[8]. However, Democrat lawmakers are not happy about Right-to-Work being considered[8]. Incoming Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca expressed concern about Wisconsin becoming "Right-to-Work" and said that job creation should be a bi-partisan priority of the new Legislature[8].