Democrats in Wisconsin accused a Republican state lawmaker of putting factory and mercantile workers’ chances for rest at the mercy of their employers, the Madison Capital Times reported.
State Rep. Mark Born’s (R) proposal would allow workers in those fields to “voluntarily choose” to waive the state requirement of at least one “day of rest in seven.” The bill is being co-sponsored in the state Senate by another Republican, Van Wanggaard.
“Why would we not want to allow employees who want to earn that money for their family — especially with the tough economic times we’ve just come through — people are picking up second jobs and things,” Born said regarding the measure. “It seems to me the opponents of this would rather have someone go work a second job than just have the simple opportunity to work those extra days when their employer has work.”
But state Rep. Daniel Riemer, who leads the Assembly Committee on Workforce Development, said the bill could be used to leverage workers into taking less pay, and characterized the bill as a step backwards in the wake of the heavily-criticized “right-to-work” legislation signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker (R) last month.
“There’s something culturally, even spiritually important about having a day of rest,” he said. Another Democrat, state Sen. Chris Larson, jokingly called Born’s bill the “Abolishing the Sabbath Act” in an interview with The Nation.
“Right now, we’re in the regressive era of politics,” Larson said.
Current law requires employers and workers seeking to circumvent the rest requirement for a limited time to petition the state Department of Workforce Development. According to Born, the department granted each of the 232 petitions it received last year.
“My bill just takes out the paperwork and leaves it completely between the employer and the employee,” he said.
But deregulating such a process is the reason the state instituted the rest requirement in the first place, said Paul Secunda, a law professor at Marquette University.
Born’s proposal, Secunda argued, “completely ignores the power dynamic in the workplace, where workers often have a proverbial gun to the head. Now this bill will force many workers to strike a bargain with the devil.”
[h/t RH Reality Check]