Wisconsin Assembly passes controversial labor bill
March 10th, 2011
04:49 PM ET

Wisconsin Assembly passes controversial labor bill

The Wisconsin state Assembly on Thursday afternoon passed a controversial bill that curtails most state workers’ collective bargaining rights, one day after state Senate Republicans used a technical procedure to get around the intentional absence of 14 Democrats and pass the measure in their chamber.

Throngs of people upset at the developments have been protesting on the grounds of the Capitol throughout the day.

The bill will reach Gov. Scott Walker's desk for final approval. The bill would, among other things, allow public workers to collectively negotiate wages only and bar unions from taking dues from public workers’ checks. Walker has argued the bill is necessary to help the state correct its deficits and avoid massive layoffs and property tax hikes.

Here is a running account of some of the latest developments:

5:02 p.m. ET: Detail on the vote: The Assembly passed the measure 53-42.

4:47 p.m. ET: The Assembly has passed the bill.

4:41 p.m. ET: The Assembly appears to be voting.

4:33 p.m. ET: Still debating the bill, Democrats in the state Assembly are arguing that the Senate's move to pass the measure yesterday was illegal in part because the bill still addresses fiscal matters.

Senate Republicans, before passing the measure yesterday, stripped the bill of appropriations so that they could vote for the bill without a quorum. This way, they could vote without the presence of the 14 Democrats who fled the state.

Assembly Democrats, however, are arguing that the measure still has changes in appropriations, inclduing a change in appropriations for a tax credit. 

4:22 p.m. ET: Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has received two death threats, Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse said. Both threats were e-mailed from the same address, according to Welhouse.

4:04 p.m. ET: Although Democratic state Sen. Jim Holperin apparently is returning to Wisconsin, one of his fellow Democrats in the state Senate, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, says she and other Senate Democrats are staying in Illinois. She says the matter of whether the Wisconsin Senate legally passed the measure last not hasn't been settled.

She said that because the legality of the Senate's move last night still has to be determined, she and other Senate Democrats still will stay away from Wisconsin because they don't want to be forced to appear in the Senate to deal with the measure.

Vinehout told CNN's Brooke Baldwin that she doesn't know where Holperin is, but she said that if he is on his way back to Wisconsin, he doesn't have the most current information. She added that the courts will need to decide whether yesterday's "legislative trickery" by Senate Republicans was legal.

3:58 p.m. ET: State Sen. Jim Holperin, one of the 14 state Senate Democrats who left the state last month in an attempt to prevent the Senate from voting on the measure, has told CNN he did so because the public needed time to digest what was being voted on, and because he thought a compromise was possible.

"The governor said he wanted to balance the budget, and we thought that could be done using the sacrifices of public workers who had agreed to concessions. We thought that could be done without taking workers' rights. Apparently we were wrong, based on the Senate's action last night," he told CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

Holperin said he has left Illinois, where he and the other Democratic senators had been staying, and is on his way back to his district in Wisconsin.

3:32 p.m. ET: The Assembly is discussing the measure. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a Democrat, has told fellow lawmakers that "the charade is up," saying the argument that the bill helps fix Wisconsin's budget is bogus.

"It doesn't fix the budget. All it does its take away workers' rights, forever," Barca said. "... Don't insult your constituents when you go home ... and tell them you repaired the budget, because you didn't repair the budget. All you did was trample on workers' rights" and Democracy."

3:04 p.m. ET: Regarding the possible recall elections that CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin mentioned below: Wisconsin residents who are angry about the saga of this measure - whether angry at Republicans for pushing it, or at the Democratic senators who fled the state last month in an attempt to avoid a vote - are talking about holding these to force some legislators out before their terms are up.

Toobin says these elections can be called by petition. Only legislators who have served at least a year would be eligible for a recall election, Toobin said. Polls suggest some recall elections would be close, Toobin said.

3:02 p.m. ET: Toobin notes that if the legislature's actions are found to have violated open-meetings law, the legislature - dominated by Republicans who want to pass the bill - will just pass it again. "The composition (of the legislature) is not going to change unless there are recall elections," Toobin said.

3 p.m. ET: Regarding whether Republican lawmakers are violating open-meetings law to push the bill through, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says its tough to tell, because there seem to be arguments for both sides. However, he says, this is more a political controversy than a legal controversy. "The courts will get involved, but ultimately the Wisconsin voters will decide" whether this bill will stay in effect (assuming the bill passes today).

- CNN's Ed Lavandera and the CNN Wire contributed to this report.

Post by:
Filed under: Jobs • Labor • Wisconsin
soundoff (498 Responses)
  1. Brian

    Is this thing turned on?

    March 10, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. falcon63

    We need a new party....think People's Party....food for thought.....No more two party system so they both can fill their pockets with our tax dollars...no more life long benefits once you are out of public service you go back into the benefits pool of the uninsured.....How is it you allowed your state legislature their benefits without paying in at the same rate? I guess they are the priviledged class....right up there with the Forbes 400 list people because they have their benefits, pay nothing for it and can tell you what to do. Wow what a priviledged class they are.

    March 10, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jason

    Two questions no one has asked yet:

    1. How much do these public workers actually make? 20k? 30k? 90k?
    2. Have the state representatives and senators stated that they will ALSO take pay cuts?

    March 10, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Andrew Speece.

    Even if public sector and private sector were on equal footing this bill would have passed and been applauded by most on this site. If my life sucks then yours should suck more. All should make below minimum wage pay 100% of benefits have no SS or 401K or pension. That last sentence was an actual statement made to me. I told her I wouldn't have spend the last 18 years as a National Regisrty Paramedic if I would've gotten paid 7.00 an hour. Funny thing is I work for a Private for Profit company I guess she assumes I was union. I agree with concessions however not sold on eliminating CB. Polls have been done to guage what people think of whats going on in Wisconsin but no polls asking what people think about corporate tax cuts. How many jobs will this create? I'll bet not a whole lot. Most other states will follow suit with this and i think its just the beginning. Several lawmwakers have mentioned eliminating minimum wage,curtailling child labor laws, and ending OT for anything worked over 40 hours. This is exactly what Employers want. Workers at each others throats. Workers out of work for so long they would practically work for nothing. Good luck everyone and just remember be careful what you wish for because we may just get it.

    March 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Governbest

    Democrats leaving the field of battle should be recalled for derilection of duty and subversion of the democratic process; makes the case for a waiver on the one year waiting period for such actions

    March 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mmmmm

    Classic example why not to deal with the republicans...middle class and blue-collar worker you don't meet or make the bottomline of the republican agenda. How many people rallying on the steps against this law voted for this gov?

    March 10, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Frank

    In the words of YOUR President ... "elections have consequences" "We don't mind the (Dems) joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in the back."

    Sucks. Don't it? Obama was all about change in Washington DC and this is what he gave us ... an example of how to solve difficult issues. Well we learned. We won. The state of Wisc won. Unions can now sit in the back and let the tax payers drive. Democracy in action.

    March 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Typical rant of dummies, you won the battle but you didn't win the fight!

      March 10, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Mmmmmm...oh yea baby. As a proud gay man who raises the rainbow flag high, I think Wisconsin should start a state wide tight boy shorts day on every March 10.

      March 10, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Zeta

    Uhhh, Mike...don't know about Fed Ex, but I *do* know that UPS is unionized. I know this because I *work* there!

    March 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Frank

    Hey unions, time to get back in your buses and head to Columbus, Ohio. The tax payers in Ohio are about to win there too. Please do not destroy our capital building or disrespect our law enforcement.

    March 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Righty

    Tax the rich, feed the poor, till there are no rich no more. EAT THE RICH! EAT THE RICH!

    March 10, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Elaine Neu of Chicago

    She has had the best doctors that has gotten her this far. she hs great courage and I hope that one day she wiill be back in Congress.

    March 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. L64

    ...wonders where all the teacher haters got the education they used to get the jobs they have...oh yeah! From teachers!

    March 10, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Southern Worker

    Its funny, when I read all these posts on here...the local union hall in Houston had to hire non-union workers to build their head quarters..because the union workers wanted too much money.

    March 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. KAnnaMar

    This is not about money. This is not about power. It is about rights. When I think about my years as a child I remember my friends, my family, school, and my TEACHERS. I know for a FACT that teachers barely make enough money to own a house, a car, and take care of living expenses. These teachers made everyone here who they are today. If you are reading this post it is because a teacher taught you how to do so. These "money hungry" people made me the person I am today. I am proud of my teachers and I am proud of my life. I am now a college student who is getting the best education possible...... again by TEACHERS. These people love their jobs and their students and I think a little respect is deserved. Anyway this is not just about teachers. This is about families also. I am a single mother. My daughter and I are on Medicaid. This will severely deplete my insurance for my "family". It will also cut the grant I get for my schooling to make a better life for my daughter and myself. This is not only about me..... I go to school with 100's of other students. Most of them have children and the only reason they can go to school is because of these grants. Yes, I may be a little too passionate about this, but passion is the only thing that keeps me from breaking down when I think about the lack of concern for myself, my friends, my family, and the rest of WI affected by this. This may not be what anyone wants to hear, but it is the sad truth. I don't want to leave the place I lived my whole life, but in all honesty, I am not going to be able to live in WI anymore.

    March 10, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lol @ Forum Fights...

    "To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it. "

    Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

    The GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE TAX PAYER!!! I decide what you will be paid with, and if you don't like it, FIND ANOTHER JOB!!! Government employees have NO RIGHT TO COLLECTIVLY BARGIN!!! You work for the TAX PAYERS who make your life POSSIBLE! Again, don't like it, want to make more money, GET A PRIVATE SECTOR JOB!!!

    March 11, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15