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Wisconsin GOP plan pushes voluntary 7-day work week

Proposal promises to ratchet up tensions.

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Posted: Monday, January 13, 2014 12:00 am

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin manufacturing and retail workers could volunteer to work seven days straight without a day off under a bill two Republican lawmakers are circulating on behalf of the state's largest business group.

The bill promises to ratchet up tensions between the GOP and Democrats and their organized labor allies, who still are stinging after Republicans passed Gov. Scott Walker's plan to strip most public workers of nearly all their union rights in 2011.

The measure's authors, Sen. Glenn Grothman, of West Bend, and Mark Born, of Beaver Dam, say the bill brings Wisconsin in line with federal law, gives workers a way to make extra money and employers a way to boost production. But Democrats and labor leaders insisted bosses would use the bill to force their employees to work longer and effectively erase the weekend.

"Even God said rest on the seventh day," said David Reardon, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 662, a union that represents about 10,000 workers across various industries in west-central and east-central Wisconsin, including manufacturing, truck driving, public workers and food service workers. "I would hate to see that Republican bill pass. Some employers would really take advantage of that."

Current Wisconsin law requires employers who own or operate factories or retail stores to give their workers at least 24 consecutive hours off every seven days. Under Grothman and Born's proposal, workers could volunteer to work seven straight days.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's largest business organization, brought the idea to them, the two Republicans said. The organization was doing a study on discrepancies between federal and state law and discovered federal law imposes no such limits on consecutive work days as long as minimum wage and overtime payment requirements are met, Born said.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, called the legislation a "slap in the face to ordinary working folks in Wisconsin."

"Workers fought long and hard for a 40-hour work week and the weekend," Mason said. "People deserve at least a day off a week. It's a legal protection for a reason."

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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