Split opinions over right-to-work
As Walker prepares to sign bill, residents concerned about middle class


March 9, 2015

Newburg’s Marty Tackes is afraid the pension he’s been building for more than 25 years won’t be available in three years.

However, Germantown’s Anne Doran believes people should be allowed to make a choice.

The controversial right-to-work bill in the state Legislature has communities divided. The legislation passed in the Senate last week and passed in the House on Friday morning by a 62-35 vote.

“I’ve been doing this for 30-some years,” said Tackes, a union member who works in masonry. “I expect it to be there. It’s disheartening for me.”

Tackes is 52 years old and when he started in Local 113 Laborers Union he planned to retire at age 55.

“Now that’s not a sure thing,” Tackes said.

The bill now moves to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk. He said he will sign the bill into law Monday.

If so, Wisconsin will be the 25th right-to-work state in the U.S.

“At a time when many families are struggling, the legislation will make things tough for them,” said Tanya Lohr, chairwoman for the Democratic Party of Washington County. “It’s not comprehendible.”

“I see this as a clear attack on the middle class,” she added. “I’m concerned about the future of the state if the middle class disappears.”

The right-to-work bill makes it illegal for a private-sector business to enter into an agreement with unions that require all workers to pay union dues, which would negatively impact the bargaining power of unions in the blue-collar state of Wisconsin.

Indiana and Michigan are the two most recent states to pass the law, doing so in 2012.

Doran, a committee chairwoman for the Washington County Republican Party, said she favors right-to-work.

“I favor the idea of people having the right to choose,” she said. “If they want to be a member of the union, let them, if not, then don’t be.”

Doran added she can justify her reasoning because she was a union member and had family members who also were.

Doran worked in the Menomonee Falls School District and retired in 1998.

“It could open up interest from outside industries,” Doran said. “There are some 30-odd states that have right-to-work. If we didn’t have it, they might be going to other states. It can affect the economy.”

To Tackes and the Democrats, the bill would affect the economy the other way.

“Unions protect the middle class and ensures the middle class continues to exist,” Lohr said. “It’s what drives the economy.”

“I think wages go down, the middle class shrinks and the economy goes down,” Lohr said.

Tackes has paid union dues for about 25 years.

In discussions he’s had with his union representative, Tackes has been warned his pension may be gone in as little as three years with right-to-work.

“I was planning on retiring at 55 and having my pension there,” Tackes said. “That may not happen. I now may have to work another 15-20 years to put something away for retirement. I could be working until I’m 70. That wasn’t in my plans.”

“Thirty years ago, you’re starting a plan,” he added. “The plan was to retire at 55 and have my pension. Now, that’s not a sure thing.”

Giving people freedom is more important for Doran.

“Everybody has a right for a chance at a job and a union,” she said.