Labor unions have contributed about $575,000 to the 14 Democratic senators who voted Wednesday against right-to-work legislation being fast-tracked through the state Legislature, according to a Wisconsin Reporter review of campaign finance records.
Although the bill passed on a party-line vote of 17-15, liberal lawmakers did not go down without a drawn-out fight, spending nearly eight hours on the Senate floor criticizing right-to-work laws, which prohibit private-sector unions from charging union dues as a condition of employment.
Taking a page out of their union donors’ playbook, the Democratic senators spouted the usual, disputed rhetoric that right-to-work hurts businesses, reduces wages, eliminates jobs and only helps lobbyists and special interest groups.
Some also claimed Republicans were pushing right-to-work legislation to divert the public’s attention away from the state’s projected $2.2 billion shortfall and Gov. Scott Walker's proposed $300 million in cuts to the University of Wisconsin System.
“Despite promises from Governor Walker and Senate Republicans, Wisconsin continues to fall behind our neighbors and a majority of the nation for jobs and wages because of their failed policies,” said Senate Assistant Minority Leader Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay. “Under (right-to-work) the quality of life for Wisconsin families will only get worse.”
But since private-sector workers in some right-to-work states have collected higher weekly earnings, an argument could be made that Senate Democrats are only fighting against the bill to protect one of their largest sources of campaign contributions.
Hansen, who took office in 2001, is the Democratic senator who has benefited most from union donations, taking in $90,838, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign database.