Sorting out right to work

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (left) and Senate President Scott Fitzgerald are fast-tracking legislation to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (left) and Senate President Scott Fitzgerald are fast-tracking legislation to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state.

News on Feb. 20, 2015 that Gov. Scott Walker is willing to sign fast-tracked right-to-work legislation is sure to put a match to arguments about the impact of such a law.

Votes could be taken within a week, the Republican leaders of the Assembly and Senate said.

And the drama over right to work -- always a contentious issue -- is peaking just as Walker rides a wave of momentum as a potential presidential contender for 2016.

So let’s take a breath.

Here’s a look at what we know, based on fact checks and articles, about right to work -- a law that would determine whether some private-sector workers can be required to join a labor union to get, or keep, a job.

In our most recent right to work fact check, from December 2014, we gave a Half True to this claim by the head of the state chamber of commerce:

"Site selectors who decide where businesses expand or relocate shun closed shop states like Wisconsin in favor of Right to Work states like Iowa, Indiana and Michigan."

We found anecdotal evidence that some firms screen out states without right to work laws when seeking to expand, and surveys of site selectors say this issue is important. But it’s far down the list of top concerns for many site selectors, making "shun" too strong a term.

We also gave a Half Flip to Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a longtime right to work advocate.

There had been no dramatic change by Vos on the timing of lawmakers considering right to work. Even after the November 2014 elections, he seemed reluctant to let another contentious debate over unions take precedence over the rest of his agenda. But we found he was no longer talking about years of waiting before legislators take up the issue.

Indeed, things have started moving quickly.

Finally, take a look at a summary we did on earlier Truth-O-Meter ratings of right to work claims.

As you’ll see in that review -- which covered right to work as it relates to income and jobs -- we have found there is some evidence of economic advantage in right to work states.

But evidence is lacking that right to work, rather than other factors, is the cause.

(By the way, if you hear a right to work claim we should check, let us know: PolitiFact@journalsentinel.com.)