MADISON, WI (FDL) – We’re starting to see some attention paid to the fact that the stripping of public employee union bargaining rights in Wisconsin could put at risk $46 million in federal transportation money. But that’s not the only way it would upset the economy here in Wisconsin – and not just the state budget.
Wisconsin has a large and profitable forest products industry, with lots of pulp and paper companies. The forest sector generates $20.5 billion in revenue and supports over 300,000 jobs. Assembly Democrats say that many of those jobs are based in pulp and paper companies which are certified by third parties as sustainable managers. The certification requires collective bargaining rights and labor standards. So by stripping those bargaining rights, the third parties who certify the forest industry in Wisconsin could revoke that certification for any company that obtains their wood from public lands.
This is from the Assembly Democrats’ press release on the subject:
“Northern Wisconsin’s economy depends on a strong forest products market,” stated Rep. Nick Milroy (D – South Range), “Governor Walker’s proposal to strip the rights of workers in the forestry sector will hurt the marketability of our forest products and could cripple the economy of our region.”
Loss of certified markets could result in the loss of thousands of jobs in Wisconsin paper mills owned by companies such as New Page, Domtar Paper, Thilmany Paper, Sappi Fine Paper and more 70 firms who are certified.
The larger point here is that stripping collective bargaining rights has a lot of unpredictable implications, such as this certification for the forestry industry. This would be a net negative to the economy, as it would reduce Wisconsin’s competitive advantage. Likewise, the transportation funding that would be lost from stripping worker’s rights costs more than the givebacks the public employee unions have offered.
Scott Walker’s power play to bust the unions could absolutely hurt the Wisconsin economy.