Obama slams Scott Walker for signing "right to work" bill

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at the American Action Forum January 30, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Win McNamee, Getty Images

President Obama on Monday slammed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, for signing a "right to work" bill into law.

"I'm deeply disappointed that a new anti-worker law in Wisconsin will weaken, rather than strengthen workers in the new economy," Mr. Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

"Wisconsin is a state built by labor, with a proud pro-worker past," Mr. Obama continued in his statement. "So even as its governor claims victory over working Americans, I'd encourage him to try and score a victory for working Americans - by taking meaningful action to raise their wages and offer them the security of paid leave. That's how you give hardworking middle-class families a fair shot in the new economy - not by stripping their rights in the workplace, but by offering them all the tools they need to get ahead."

The rise of the American middle class coincided with the rise of unions, the president said. He slammed the "sustained, coordinated assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government," over the past several years.

The law that Walker signed bans requirements for private-sector workers to pay union fees. There are 25 states with such laws. When he signed the law in a Milwaukee-area factory on Monday, Walker said it represented "one more big tool" for attracting businesses and investment to the state, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

"This sends a powerful message across the country and across the world," Walker said. "'Wisconsin is Open For Business' now is more than just a slogan. It's a way of doing business."

Walker has built a reputation for his often polarizing yet unapologetically conservative agenda. During his first term, he feuded with public employees over their collective bargaining rights and was subject to a recall vote because of it. He enacted tax reductions, signed a controversial law requiring women to get an ultrasound before getting an abortion, and he enacted a controversial voter ID law. In spite of his partisan agenda, Walker won the recall election and won re-election as governor in 2014.

While the president typically tries to stress his bipartisan relationships with the nation's governors, he has at times criticized GOP state leaders on certain ideological issues, such as the expansion of Medicaid.