Right to Work: My day at the Capitol

11040262_10152720807766099_1825715119_nBy Kristi Lacroix

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you have undoubtedly been inundated with news about Wisconsin becoming the 25th Right to Work State. Unfortunately, most of the news has concentrated on the ridiculous, and often disgusting, behavior of the Capitol protestors.

I was in the Capitol last Tuesday, listening to testimony given in front of the Senate Labor Committee, and am bursting at the seams to tell all of you what I witnessed. Grab a cup of coffee, this is gonna take a bit.

I arrived at the Capitol around 10am and was immediately met with animosity from three union members as I walked up the steps to the building. I was asked if I wanted a pamphlet describing the demise of Wisconsin if a the RTW Bill be passed. I politely declined the pamphlet, was asked why I did not want it, and responded that I support RTW Legislation. The three men could not resist the opportunity to call me an “idiot” and laugh that I can “enjoy making less than minimum wage.” Since this rhetoric is nothing new to me, I just smiled and kept on walking.

Upon entering the room where testimony was being given, I saw many of the “usual suspects.” To my right sat the entire Board of the Wisconsin Education Association, as well as union members dressed in full Carhart gear as if it were – 20 degrees in the room. I copped a squat on the floor and started taking notes.

“Expert” testimony was underway from both sides of the fence; it struck me immediately that anytime a supporter of RTW spoke, the audience would snicker, laugh, boo, or just roll their eyes in disgust. I guess I should not have been surprised by this behavior as two of the committee members, Senators Wirch and Larson, led the circus by grandstanding with snarky and disrespectful comments toward any RTW supporters. It also did not go unnoticed by me that both of these Senators were giving misinformation, leading attendees to believe that RTW is a evil funded by the Bradley Family Foundation and Koch brothers. According to these two “professionals,” RTW would kill the middle class, burn homes, and bring Wisconsin into a black abyss of irreparable despair. Since there is just too much of their ridiculousness to address, I will expose their lies in another article; their nonsensical comments deserve attention all on their own. Check back for THAT fun!

After hours of expert testimony, it was time for community comments. Thank goodness I was the first to speak. There were over 1,500 slips turned in to speak and I really had no desire to be at the Capitol until 7pm.

I gave my testimony and included my background as a public school teacher who was forced to belong to the union for 15 years. I talked about my concerns surrounding Wisconsin being a compulsory unionism state and how the current 24 RTW states are not experiencing the apocalypse predicted by RTW opponents. I took a minute to address Senators Larson and Wirch about a comment they had made earlier in the morning. While mocking a previous speaker, both claimed that no one in Wisconsin is forced to join a union as a term of employment. Yes, you heard me correctly. Furthermore, they claimed that any employee could request to be a fair-share member, receive a refund of money used for politics, and certainly be a “freeloader.” Since these two “leaders” felt the need to downright lie about “fair-share” I was compelled to set the record straight.

Here is my experience with my union and what those two Senators needed to hear:

I was forced to join the union the day I became a teacher. My contract clearly stated that I would join the Kenosha Education Association and that I would pay my fair share. Ok, I joined. I became involved in my local, state, and national unions as I wanted to see what my money was being spent on. I sat on a WEAC Committee for three years and even attended 4 Representative Assemblies hosted by the National Education Association. Needless to say, I saw that my money was being spend on lavish salaries, buildings, and politics that I did not support.

I became a fair-share member. I wrote a letter to my union during the two week window given to employees to request refund of political funds. You see, by law, the union can only require employees to pay for collective bargaining and administrative fees. According to my union, the refund equaled $2.00 a month. $2.00 a month; I was supposed to believe that only two bucks a month was used for politics? Give me a break! The NEA is one of the top political donors of all time!

I knew something was wrong, I was being lied to.

After phone calls, letters, and outright lies from the union, I elicited help from the National Right to Work Foundation. Turns out that the union, by law, is required to give out copies of their audited budgets to any member who requests them. It took me about a year to obtain these records, but when I did, my blood began to boil!

The $2 a month refund I was receiving was the money being used for the union’s PAC (Political Action Committee). This is money given directly to candidates. I came to find out that A LOT of my money was being donated to organizations, while not direct PAC money, that supported political causes I disagreed with. Heck, I am a Conservative and certainly did not want my money going to Planned Parenthood, ACORN, or any other ridiculous group supported by the Left.

In the end, it took certified letters, threats of a lawsuit, and some tenacity to receive a refund of over $400. I was paying over $1,000 a year in dues and over $400 was spent on political nonsense. Thanks, union!

I ended my testimony asking the committee to support the RTW Bill as it would do two things:

  1. Allow workers the choice to join a union or not
  2. Force unions to offer membership benefits and spend dues in a responsible way that would compel workers to join.

As I got up to leave, Senator Wirch could not help himself but to try and embarrass me. He loudly stated that I made a great salary as a teacher and enjoyed a “Cadillac” insurance package. In the most snarky manner imaginable, he told me that I “had no issue exploiting THOSE benefits.”

I stood in the room, filled with many who presumably dislike me, and responded, “With all due respect, Senator Wirch, I left the union because I was tired of my money being spent on people like you.”

His response? “You got that right!”

Um, thanks for confirming my accusation, Senator Wirch!

I felt pleased with myself as I walked passed the union-paid protestors who were holding vulgar signs and yelling obscenities in the rotunda. After all, Wirch needed to know that I know who pays for his campaigns. The collusion between the unions and the Democrats is not ignored by me.

Dear Senators Wirch and Larson, please check back in with WDI this weekend. It will take time to dissect your misinformation. This will be free of charge, you are welcome.