BY KIRA LERNER – – – – –
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said during a radio interview Thursday that he supports national “right-to-work” legislation, a type of anti-labor law that Wisconsin passed last year in an effort to cripple the state’s unions.
The Texas senator, who is currently leading in the Wisconsin polls, said in an interview on WTMJ radio in Milwaukee that such right-to-work laws are a “fundamental right,” according to the Associated Press. Right-to-work laws are designed to severely weaken unions by forcing them to provide services without payment from workers.
Cruz said during the interview that supporting a right-to-work law will show that government “sides with the working men and women of this country.” He added that Wisconsin’s law restricting unions “is exactly what we need to do in Washington.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who has endorsed Cruz, signed a right to work law last year, despite staunch opposition from local activists and workers. The law made Wisconsin the 25th state in the country with right-to-work legislation on the books.
While Republicans argue the laws free workers from union dues and make businesses more competitive, studies have shown that all workers, regardless of whether or not they belong to a union, lose an average of $1,500 a year in wages as a result of these laws, and workers are less likely to receive benefits like health insurance or pensions. States with right-to-work laws also tend to see less upward mobility than the rest of the country.
But Paul Secunda, a law professor and director of the labor and employment law program at Marquette University, told ThinkProgress last year, as Walker signed the law, that he didn’t think Wisconsin’s labor force was likely to suffer a huge blow because its labor movement is strong. “There are still vibrant labor movements in right-to-work states,” he pointed out. If there’s a sense of solidarity and and members feel satisfied and engaged, they are often happy to pay what it takes to keep their union operational, he said.
Before Walker signed Wisconsin’s law in March 2015, former state Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz (R) told ThinkProgress that the law was “going to hurt Wisconsin employers terribly in the long run, as the workforce gets more angry.” Democrats in the midwestern state also attempted to stall the legislation, but it eventually passed the Republican-controlled state legislature.
Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has said on the campaign trail that he believes Ohio doesn’t need a right-to-work law. Though Kasich is hardly an advocate for unions, he has perhaps recognized the unpopularity of such laws. Michigan passed a right-to-work law in 2012, and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) saw his approval ratings plummet after he signed the bill.
Walker — who also faced sharp public backlash after he signed a law that virtually ended collective-bargaining rights for most public sector unions — dropped out of the Republican presidential race last September. He had also called for right-to-work legislation on the national level, saying during one of his final campaign events: “We must take on the big-government union bosses in Washington — just like I took them on in Wisconsin.”