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.

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Filed under: Jobs • Labor • Wisconsin
soundoff (498 Responses)
  1. CAT

    Blah, blah, blah…. Union energized? This is a just that socialist Trumka’s new talking point to TRY and create some energy besides the hippie loons storming the capital… I remember when Healthcare was rammed down our throats but it was perfectly legal even though the majority of Americans did not want it.. That being said, as Obama has noted, elections have consequences and this Governor was voted in to make hard fiscal decisions- if the MAJORITY of people are not happy then vote him out when it’s time..You win some, you lose some- that’s why our country is great.

    March 11, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. G

    Brother against Brother. The beginning of woes. Now curse the messenger but the message remians.

    March 11, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. Ricky

    This is stupid. getting rid of Collective Bargaining rights IS GETTING RID OF THE ONLY REAL POWER UNIONS HAVE. without it, a lot of people will lose their jobs because they aren't going to stand for the crap pay they'll be given. everyone says "oh they work for the taxpayer blah blah" WELL THEY WORK DAMN HARD FOR YOU! and its not like the money they make is "too much". lets say they were making 60K a year. now minus taxes and bills and other expenses. that becomes nothing in a heartbeat. all of you that are "union bashers" need to realize that you're the greedy ones. its all about you and where your "tax money" goes. but wait, Oh you don't decide. THE STATE DOES. so who's to say any of the reallocated money is going to benefit you? most likely, Walker and the GOP in Wisconsin have their own interests in mind, not taxpayers.

    March 11, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. Wesley Mcgranor

    We need right-to-work legislation - at least - in all states. Government employees should be banned from Unions.

    March 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. CaptObvious

    I'm somewhat shocked.

    Over and over again Walker told us that this bill would "give us the tools" to handle the immediate $137 million dollar fiscal year shortage.

    I just now found out (my bad) that the union cuts only generate $37.5 million in the fiscal year. The other $99.5 million needs to come from restructuring a $168 million bond....!!!!????

    If this all wasn't a LIE, it comes awfully dern close!

    March 11, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. david bidlack

    well wisconsin reps and govenor did it! whats next? when it gets to court (which it will) the state can answer the question in court what they think a legally binding contract means? question: why have you breached the signed contract between the state and the teachers? question: why did you not try to reopen the contract with agreement from both parties who signed and agreed to the contract? answer from the state: "we just could not afford to pay what we agreed to so we lowered the amount of what we had to pay by voiding out the contract! question: do you think that american home owners have the right to throw out their contract agreement between them and the loan company? answer from the state: . no if the home owner can't pay the agreed to amount than they will be forclosed on or have to file for bankrupcy its in the contract! question to the state: why didn't you as a state do the same thing as home owners have to? question to the state: do you think you are above the law? answer: yes we are republicans and we do not have to follow the laws of the land because we no best! this is going to be funny as well as cost the state millions of dollars in the end when they loose the case!

    March 11, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. atlantic1

    Republicans ran havoc over this country when in control and then when Obama and the dems tried to do what's needed to clean up their mess, they placed obstacles in his way and cried "no" so they could make things worse and make him seem ineffective. Then this "strategy" places them in the driver's seat and what to they do? They continue their reign of destruction in the name of "smaller government" and making the "necessary" cuts. Wake up tea people! You are about to get royally screwed. The GOP are not seeking a solution, they are seeking power, money, and influence.

    March 11, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Vikky

    I thought , that Americans hate socialism , bat apparently Unions tried to have one for them self, and Who cares about people without Union Let rise taxes to make union people life better and rest of us will pay for that

    March 11, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Take away bargaining rights and all workers lose. Make the Koch bros pay their fair share and pay the deficit off.

      March 11, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • joecartwright3

      No, Vick1, the republicans have been wanting socialism in their favor for years! It's like that song about them by the Dixi Chicks, no steps forword, and fifty steps back!

      March 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • joecartwright3

      Sorry I got the name wrong Vikky. I say we make all republicans pay their fair share. It should not be just the harder workers losing!

      March 17, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sgt. Slaughter

    Power, money and influence????....

    That's what the union bosses want for themselves too!... Cuz the sheep they call members can't take care of themselves so we'll do it for you..... Just pay us some dues......LOL

    March 11, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nexus

    When was the last time "your union" cut its spending.... Decreased the dues you pay, decreased junkets for union execs or cut or even held steady the salaries they take from union members?????? Hmmmm? I wonder... Who's screwing whom??

    March 11, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Geoff

    Labor unions are not socialism. The basic right for individuals to bargain for their collective worth is about freedom.

    March 11, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ge3ne willis

    why should tax payers pay the entire cost of the union bills?people on disability have no unions to bargain for raises.tax payers dont have the advantages that teachers have.tax payers dont have a say as to how much the thug unions can charge tax payers.if wisconsin has at least i 39 billions instate revanue to hand out to the thug union for the disadvantaged teachers so as the tax payers dont have to be saddled with rediculous taxes to satisfied union thugs to pay teachers who strike without cause,then show everybody all this money the state of wisconsin has so teachers can be given there free ride and leave the poopr tax payers and the disableds money alone.

    March 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dustin

    I would assume that this was already banned by the Citizens United Supreme Court Case. True, the Citizens United dealt with political contributions, however the reasoning behind it was that it's illegal for the government to block an assembly of citizens, which is guaranteed in the first amendment. I'd assume that unions is a peaceful assembly of people.

    March 13, 2011 at 3:47 am | Report abuse |
  14. John Nicholls

    You can shoot the messenger but you can't shoot the message. No money means no money. Union people need to understand no means "NO"!!!!!!!!

    March 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      If they did not have any money why give a 140,000,000.00 tax cut ot the Koch Bros. If you are going to tax people tax the corporations too. Don't give them a break if you don't give teachers a break. Theis is not about money. The public union had already agreed upon a benefit cut, this was a blatant misuse of power to take away bargaining rights .

      March 21, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. SwEeT!

    @ekremer
    ["Stuff moves to mexico, india because the employees go to work...and WORK, not whine like a bunch of little kids."]

    Sorry, but I would not like to live as they do in these countries! Yes, we pay union dues but in doing so we have excellent healthcare that we could not afford to buy otherwise; get top notch training in our fields of work that has much higher standards than non union fields and save companies millions of dollars with safety programs and standards unmatched by any non union companies anywhere. Without these standards the workforces would be taking a step backwards in quality and safety costing companies double the costs or more and in turn putting that added expense onto consumers or taking from their employees pockets. Take the unions away and no workers anywhere will have a say in what they get for their hard work. Everyone will be under bidding everyone else just to get the job and then be angry at getting paid so little that they will not care about their quality of work.

    March 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
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