President Obama inserted himself into the Republican presidential race Monday night with a statement blasting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for signing “right-to-work” legislation earlier in the day.
The unusual statement—the White House has not often spoken out about state laws—comes as Walker’s star continues to rise in a crowded GOP field.
“I’m deeply disappointed that a new anti-worker law in Wisconsin will weaken, rather than strengthen, workers in the new economy,” Obama said. “Wisconsin is a state built by labor, with a proud pro-worker past.
“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,” he added. “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.”
Wisconsin is the 25th state to pass a version of the right-to-work law, which bars unions from collecting mandatory fees from nonunion workers.
Walker responded to Obama with a statement Tuesday morning highlighting the president’s recent veto of a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline as well as the state’s economic record.
“On the heels of vetoing Keystone Pipeline legislation, which would have paved the way to create thousands of quality, middle-class jobs, the President should be looking to states, like Wisconsin, as an example for how to grow our economy,” Walker said. “Our reforms are moving Wisconsin forward and helping create family-supporting jobs for people in our state. Despite a stagnant national economy and a lack of leadership in Washington, since we took office, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is down to 5.0 percent, and more than 100,000 jobs and 30,000 businesses have been created.”
This story has been updated.