Dismembering the Sabbath in Wisconsin

You’d think Wisconsin Republicans would reward themselves with some rest after pulling off–via a great deal of misdirection from Scott Walker–the enactment of a southern-style “right to work” law banning union shop agreements reached via voluntary free-market contract negotiations. But no: as The Nation‘s Moshe Marvit explains, Badger State GOPers are back with a bill to revoke the right to a day off after seven days of labor.

The new bill, which is being sponsored by Republican Van Wanggaard in the State Senate alongside [Rep. Mark] Born in the Assembly, would add a provision to the “day of rest” law that could effectively nullify it. The bill would create an exemption that would allow employees to “voluntarily choose” to slave away for seven days in a row without at least twenty-four hours of rest.

Yeah, right, it’s “voluntary” because employers and employees are free agents conducting arms-length negotiations across a level bargaining table.

As Marquette University law professor Paul Secunda explained, the idea “completely ignores the power dynamic in the workplace, where workers often have a proverbial gun to the head.” Indeed, the reason Wisconsin had passed a “day of rest” law in the first place was because employers had been abusing employees by pressing them to work too many days without break. “Now this bill will force many workers to strike a bargain with the devil,” Secunda said.

Speaking of the devil, I don’t know about the religious views of the bill’s prime sponsors, but before it reaches his desk someone needs to remind the conservative evangelical Governor of Wisconsin of that item in the Decalogue about “remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy.” Those Republicans who worship at the Church of the Golden Calf are important to his presidential ambitions, I suppose, but it’s going to be hard for him to pose as a “populist” if he’s for getting rid of the Sabbath and the weekend as protected areas of family life.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.