Matt Rothschild
Campaign Cash

Kochs, Big Business Back Anti-Union Bill

They spent $24 million on campaigns. Bill targets union construction projects.

By , Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Jan 27th, 2017 01:14 pm
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Citizen Koch

Citizen Koch

Powerful business and construction groups are backing a Republican bill that would prevent state and local governments from requiring bidders on public projects to reach agreements with labor unions on wages and other issues.

The measure, Assembly Bill 24, is backed by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), Americans for Prosperity, and Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin. WMC, the state’s largest business group, and Americans for Prosperity, a rightwing ideological group founded and funded by the Koch brothers, have spent more than $24 million since January 2010 to help elect Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature.

Project labor agreements are commonly used in the construction industry to lay out standards such as wages, benefits and safety guidelines. The proposal would allow local governments to use project labor agreements if they wish, but would not require them to do so.

The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Rob Hutton, of Brookfield, and Sen. Leah Vukmir, of Wauwatosa, received a public hearing Tuesday. The proposal was among numerous anti-labor items released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2016 to show states how to “promote a favorable business climate.”

The bill would prohibit:

State and communities from requiring businesses that want to bid on a public projects from having to enter into project labor agreements with unions;

State and local governments from considering the lack of a project labor agreement as a factor in awarding a bidder a project contract;

State and local governments from requiring businesses that bid on projects, or their employees, from becoming dues-paying union members.

Democrats and unions say the labor agreements boost wages and ensure compliance with workplace rules, governing safety and equal opportunity. Another argument that union leaders make is that public and private projects covered by the agreements also tend to be done on time and on budget and use local, skilled workers. The GOP bill would also take away local control, the unions and Democrats say.

Both WMC and Americans for Prosperity are routine election-time backers of Republicans and conservatives for legislative and statewide offices, and frequently support anti-labor proposals.

WMC has spent an estimated $18.6 million on outside electioneering activities since January 2010, including an estimated $9.5 million, to help Walker win his 2010 general, 2012 recall, and 2014 reelection contests.

Americans for Prosperity has spent an estimated $5.7 million on outside electioneering since January 2010, including about $3.7 million to help Walker win his 2012 recall.

Vukmir’s top individual contributors between January 2013 and October 2016 were

Michael and Sandra Harsh, of Wales, $3,000. Michael Harsh is a GE Healthcare executive and Sandra Harsh is a VA Hospital nurse;

Sally and Gary Sprenger, of Mequon, owners of Anew Health Care Services, $2,978;

Carol and William Klug, of Rubicon, managers of the Klug Family Foundation, $2,500.

Hutton’s top contributors between January 2013 and October 2016 were:

Richard and Carol Bayerlein, of Elm Grove, owners of Bay-San Co., $2,100;

John and Jane Evans, of Oconomowoc, retired, $2,000;

Ted and Sharon Hutton, of Brookfield, retired, $1,650.

Matthew Rothschild is executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Categories: Campaign Cash, Politics

9 thoughts on “Campaign Cash: Kochs, Big Business Back Anti-Union Bill”

  1. Jason says:

    Matt, I would love to see how much you would pay for a newly built home. Why must tax payers of Wisconsin pay the highest bid rate? We have a Department Of Transportation that has paid double for Wisconsin roads as was budgeted over the last decade. The Progessives keep stating that Walker has given Wisconsin a lousy economy but how does paying twice the value of all public project rejuvenate Wisconsin’s economy?

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    How are progressives at fault for the DOT’s poor estimates? Maybe Walker cut calculators from the department’s budget.

  3. Wifather2000 says:

    Iowa has both RTW and eliminated prevailing wage, their road building costs per mile are almost twice as much as Wisconsin’s, the worker’s suffer and the road builders contribute to republican causes on our dime!

  4. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    And how are progressives at fault for Wisconsin roads falling apart under Walker/WisGOP’s “leadership” since 2011 (another key part of the audit).

    Then again, the GOP’s economic strategy in this state has always been “cut wages of people who work, cut taxes of people who own.” And how’s that been working out for us?

  5. Penrod says:

    “Democrats and unions say the labor agreements boost wages”

    So we can all agree: A stated purpose of the union requirement is to artificially drive up the labor cost of government projects.

    Unless we explicitly argue that government exists for the purpose of driving up the People’s costs, what is the justification? “Union workers like getting paid more they would otherwise” doesn’t strike me as a very convincing argument for spending more tax money than would otherwise be needed.

    “Profligate” and “fleecing the taxpayers of all income groups” are not synonyms for either “social justice” or “efficient”.

  6. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    You get what you pay for Penrod. And the budget isn’t helped if people aren’t making wages and the economy suffers as a result.

    I love how you regressives think that paying people less somehow has no negative economic consequences. Wisconsin’s failing job record post-Act 10 would prove otherwise, as would the record of most other regressive GOP states (go look at who’s lost jobs in the last 12 months. All low-wage, low-educated pro-ALEC states).

  7. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Vincent- Because the Kochs are all about any measure that miht undercut wages and worker power. Businesses can leverage immigrant labor to screw immigrant and non-immigrant workers

  8. Vincent Hanna says:

    Hey the more voices speaking out against Trump the better. These are scary times.

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