Republican Bills Would Prohibit Numerous Local Labor Rules

January 11, 2018

Hand Indicating Prohibition

A gang of business, banking, rightwing ideological, and other powerful special interests are backing GOP bills that would prohibit local governments from passing a variety of labor-related ordinances.

The proposals, Senate Bill 634 and AB748, would forbid local ordinances or agreements pertaining to wages, working hours, overtime, benefits, discrimination, and wage claims.

The measures, which were sponsored by Republican Sen. Chris Kapenga, of Delafield, and Rep. Rob Hutton, of Brookfield, received a public hearing Wednesday. The bills would:

Forbid local governments from setting higher minimum wages for contractors they do business with;

Prohibit local governments from enforcing employment discrimination standards;

Prohibit local governments from using labor peace agreements where employers agree not to interfere with attempts by labor unions to organize workers;

Forbid local governments from setting licensing regulations that are tougher than state standards;

Prohibit local governments from establishing minimum requirements for employment benefits;

Forbid local governments from handling wage claims or passing ordinances that prohibit employers from asking about a worker’s salary history.

Support for the bill is being led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group, and the rightwing Americans for Prosperity, a secretive outside electioneering group created by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

WMC, which is among the largest special interest spenders on outside electioneering activities, has doled out an estimated $18.6 million since January 2010 to support GOP and conservative legislative and statewide candidates. Americans for Prosperity has spent an estimated $5.7 million since 2010 in Wisconsin to support conservative and GOP legislative and statewide candidates.

Thanks to their help, Republicans currently control the Senate by an 18-13 margin and the Assembly by a 62-35 margin.

The bills are opposed by Democrats, local governments, and unions, who claim they hurt worker pocketbooks and attack local control.