When I took office as governor of Wisconsin in 2011, I called together our new Republican majority in the legislature and told them it was time to “put up or shut up.” As the elected leaders of our state, we owed it to our fellow Wisconsinites to follow through with our promises and to tackle the big issues head on.
Our first order of business was reclaiming power for the people of our state. For too long, the big government union bosses had called the shots in our state capital.
At the time, Wisconsin faced a $3.6 billion budget shortfall. We needed to reduce spending, yet collective bargaining by public employees had limited the ability of taxpayers and local governments to control that spending. Taxpayers picked up the tab for all pension contributions and most health insurance contribution. The unions even had a virtual monopoly on schools’ health insurance business by having negotiated requirements to use a union-owned insurance company. Unions didn’t even have to collect their own dues—taxpayers footed the bill for that too.
To change all this, we enacted legislation that became known as Act 10.This is the bill that prompted all the protests in our capitol building and even in front of my personal home. But for all the attention, it was really pretty commonsense legislation.
With Act 10, we reformed the collective bargaining laws so that public employees now make modest contributions to their healthcare and pensions—much like private sector employees. Public employees can now decide for themselves whether to join a union. And while unions can still collectively bargain for wages, they can’t bargain over things like the size of bulletin boards or getting paid time off for union business.
Act 10 also allowed local governments and districts to pay employees based on merit and not just seniority. Teachers can get raises and promotions for a doing a good job—not just being there the longest. Taxpayers get a better deal because local governments can shop around for the most affordable employee insurance plans.
Because Act 10 freed up funds for school districts, fewer have had to lay off teachers. In fact, the three districts with the most teacher layoffs following Act 10 were ones that did not adopt the reforms.
In short, Act 10 ensured that the state government treated taxpayers fairly and spent tax dollars more effectively. While the D.C.-based special interests have attacked us for it, the people of Wisconsin like what they see. We have been re-elected three times in four years.
Now we are once again presented with another chance at big and bold reform—taking on the special interests a second time. Yesterday, the Wisconsin state Senate passed Freedom to Work legislation, which will mean no Wisconsin worker can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. I will sign the bill into law.
I’ve supported Freedom to Work for years, dating back to my time in the state legislature when I co-sponsored it. And now the people of Wisconsin have voiced their support through their state Senators and representatives. According to polling, 69 percent of Wisconsinites support the policy, and a majority of union households—51 percent—also support the law.
Here’s why I’m signing Freedom to Work in Wisconsin: it is good for economic growth. In the last decade, forced unionization states have had about half the rate of wage growth, job growth and manufacturing growth as Right to Work states. Adjusted for cost of living, employees in forced unionization states have almost $2,000 less disposable income. Bottom line, this reform is pro-freedom and pro-work for Wisconsin.