March 23, 2015
When Governor Walker signed the unfair “right to work” bill into law he proclaimed, “Wisconsin now has the freedom to work.”
When I heard that line, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I wanted to laugh because I knew he was wrong. I wanted to cry because I knew this law was going to make life more challenging for myself, my family, and my friends.
I work at Fair Oaks Farms in Kenosha and am a proud member of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1473. Every few years my coworkers and I sit down with Fair Oaks Farms and negotiate workplace rules, pay raises, health care, and other terms of our employment. There are disagreements, but we have always managed to work out a fair deal.
This “right to work” law upends that entire process by giving corporations all across Wisconsin the right to divide workers. The motivation to undermine worker unity is simple – greed and profits. If the worker side of the bargaining table is weaker, then corporations won’t feel like they have to pay them as much or provide them with as good benefits.
These aren’t just personal fears of mine – they’re facts.
Study after study has shown workers in “right to work” states are poorer, sicker, less likely to have retirement security, and are more reliant upon government programs like food stamps and Medicaid.
That doesn’t sound like freedom to me. That sounds like a fiasco.
Most concerning of all, this “right to work” law was pushed through and bankrolled by an out of state organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Here’s how ALEC works. They bring corporations and state legislators together at lavish conferences and wine and dine them to their hearts content. In exchange for being given a ritzy vacation, state legislators are sent home with model legislation that’s written by the corporate attendees.
ALEC wrote the Wisconsin right to work law. It’s legalized bribery.
I understand the value of belonging to a union because I wasn’t always a part of one. My life was pretty tough before I became a UFCW member. I was always finding myself in jobs with an unreliable schedule. As a result, the only thing I could truly rely on was my paycheck being too small. I had no stability, no benefits, and no chance to get ahead.
When I started full time at Fair Oaks Farms almost four years ago I became a member of the UFCW and my life improved dramatically.
I started having a fair schedule that provided me with full-time hours. There was health insurance available for my family that I could actually afford. Before the UFCW I had no insurance at all. I finally started earning enough money that I could start saving for my retirement and my son’s college education.
Most importantly, walking into work every day filled me with pride because I was providing my family with a good life.
When working people are allowed to stick together in their workplace and bargain for better wages and benefits their employer is much more likely to respect their needs. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.
This “right to work” law is an attempt to hurt every worker in Wisconsin. The politicians who helped pass it are stripping us of our stability because their corporate donors want to pay us all less so they can make more profits. It’s shameful and wrong.
Living with this unfair law will not be easy, but if Wisconsin workers stand shoulder to shoulder in their workplaces, we’ll still be able to earn the hours and wages that we deserve.