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. Chris

    Empoyees who are paid by the taxpayer should have never been allowed to unionize. This wrong is being corrected in Wisconsin, I jsut hope the rest of the country follows!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brussard

      Nice logical argument there. Are public employees not workers as well? Why can't they unionize?

      March 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just_A_Teacher

      You must have been hurt bad by your teachers. You must really hate their unions that try to protect them. Yet, I am support my union that fights to keep class sizes down because research has shown how negatively large class sizes impact a child's education. I also appreciate how the union tries to make teaching a profession that people would want to enter. I didn't go into teaching because of the pay or benefits or summers. I went into it because I love to teach. Still, I almost chose not to teach because of the pay and if I could go back and redo it I might choose differently. If there wasn't the benefits secured by my union I would not have become a teacher and I imagine many intelligent, hard-working teachers would say the same. No longer is teaching a profession of the wife's of doctors and lawyers and other higher paid professionals. Teaching is a career now. It's a career that requires a lot of training and education. Most teachers at my school either have their masters or are working on it. It is a necessity in the profession now. I would think that people would want qualified teachers. Yet, by busting the unions these qualified teachers will be the first to leave.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Public sector employees don't need to unionize because they get to vote on their bosses. They have a union called the electorate. Their union spoke when they elected the governor and this is what he is doing now. When he comes up for election again they can fire him if they want. Sounds a lot better than the private sector where you get dictated salary and benefits and your only option is to either attempt to negotiate on your own or go to another company.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Susan K

    So they have to pay more for their cadillac health plan and towards their retirement and they can't bargain with their employer...cry me a river folks! Welcome to the real world I've been living in and I don't have their level of health care, no sympathy here!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ekasza

    I am so proud of Governor Walker and those that just passed this great bill. Many tried to intimidate these brave legislators and Governor; even a Democrat pointed to a Repulican legislator and said "You die'. This is beyond bullying ; it is intimidation. The Republicans acted like adults; the fleeing Democrats acted like children; They really were pathetic fleeing because they might lose the vote. It is called VOTINGl!! Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. We teach that to our children daily.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Life Is Hard

      you nailed it! The Bill of Rights doesn't say your never going to be dissappointed!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • COL. BAT GUANO

      Everything you said was wrong.

      March 11, 2011 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. Life Is Hard

    I like the fact that the protesters they show appear to be students, who don't have a clue what life in the real world is like anyway. Oh, and Jesse Jackson, who hasn't had a job in 20 years. Great representation, you should all go home to your job if you have one....and if you dont...welcome to the real world

    March 10, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. HiThereMorons

    Look at those peaceful lefties! What an example for those hatemongering, violent Tea Partiers, huh?

    March 10, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Since when is shouting tantamount to "violence"?

      March 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • HiThereMorons

      A death threat is not a shout. Rampaging past police into a state house is not a shout.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Tea pots, lecturing on death threats? Laughable!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • HiThereMorons

      Imbecile trying to have a rational debate? Laughable!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brussard

      What evidence do you have that the death threats were confirmed or came from the peaceful protesters? Stop pulling facts out of thin air; you're not running for the Republican presidential candidacy.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • HiThereMorons

      Evidence? What a concept!! Let us recall the immediate blame on the Tea Party for the shooting of Gifford! Laughable!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Here we go with the family values Jesus crowd and its hate-mongering. Such blatant hypocrisy is why you annoy EVERYONE.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • HiThereMorons

      Talk about assumptions!! Nice job sidestepping the rampaging past police. Don't want to argue for the peacefulness of that action, so you attack the death threats only. Nice.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Big deal. Rampaging past the police is the police force's concern, and it hasn't shown any, so why do you? Liberals KNOW how to fight, and you benfit every single second from it. Meanwhile, you tea pots only know how to misspell signs.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GoodByMiddleClass

    Endangered middle class wake up! The war is not between uinion and non-union middle class. It's between the rich (well represented by the Republicans you keep voting for for some strange reason) who keep getting exponentially richer while the middle class keeps shrinking into extinction. Without unions non-union workers would never have achieved middle class. Remain clueless and we'll return to the dark ages and a plutocracy rather than a democracy.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I do believe as many wealthy people/corporations contributed to the campaign of Barack as for McCain.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • COL. BAT GUANO

      I think its too late. They got it when they tricked republicans into voting against themselves.

      March 11, 2011 at 5:07 am | Report abuse |
  7. Anthony

    In reading most of these posts, it is apparent the Republicans have succeeded in pitting common worker vs common worker while they sit back and make the rich even richer. Americans got duped into thinking the Repubs were fighting for them and their jobs, but when we all woke up the next day and looked in the mirror and realized what we had done, there was no one to blame but ourselves for falling for their BS(JOBS JOBS JOBS?). Yes, 2010 was successful for the Right, but im pretty sure the intelligent vote will return again in 2012 to escort these crooks out of office.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rhonda

    Its understandable why the people were fighting to keep their union jobs.If the rest of us working class received those kinds of outragious benefits in this day and time I guess we would be fighting to keep them too. Its about time the people in Wisconsin have to work for what they get like the rest of us.The union was sending the state into bankruptcy.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Frank

    IT'S OFFICIAL. TOMARROW IS NATIONAL TIGHT BOY JEANS DAY!!!!!!! EMOS WILL ONE DAY RULE THE PLANET!!!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. szaggy

    chloe-

    They had 3 weeks to talk and instead acted like 2 year olds and ran to Illinois.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. EndangeredMiddleClassWakeUP

    Endangered middle class wake up! The war is not between uinion and non-union middle class. It's between the rich (well represented by the Republicans you keep voting for for some strange reason) who keep getting exponentially richer while the middle class keeps shrinking into extinction. Without unions non-union workers would never have achieved middle class. Remain clueless and we'll return to the dark ages and a plutocracy rather than a democracy.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      bah...... go purchase some stock or patent something for crying out loud..... capitalism is the envy of the world.... you ever wonder why everyone wants to come to the U.S? Because of the freedom to get rich...... and in many case quite quickly I might add...... not for everybody, but the opportunity is here in the states.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • COL. BAT GUANO

      Brian, capitalism doesnt exist anymore. It was a failed experiment.

      March 11, 2011 at 5:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. Britt J

    As I've watched the news and read these artilces, the one thing I keep seeing commented about is that this bill is killing the middle class, it is a win for the corporations that get rich off the poor guy. I don't understand this argument in today's time. Maybe 50-75 years ago it would have applied, but in todays time it just doesn't work anymore. What makes these unionized employees worth more than me or my coworkers? Why should they get to have free healthcare when I pay 100% of mine? Pensions....what pension, I have an IRA and a 401K that I contribute to. I work hard for my money, and I enjoy the benefits of knowing that what I have comes from hard work. I don't expect handouts, and I don't want them either. Deunionization will put everyone on equal footing. It will ensure that everyone is working just as hard as the next person, because if you don't, you will lose your job. Having a job, getting a pay raise...that should all be based on the quality of the job done, not because you pay someone to keep your job for you. Why should someone work hard and put their best effort forward if they don't have to? They wouldn't, and the person sitting in the room next to mine, surfing the Internet and talking on their cell phone should not have the same salary as I do. It's time for everyone to start working for what they have and stop asking for others to do for them.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brussard

      Maybe the problem isn't that public employees have better benefits; maybe it's the fact that your employer refuses to improve yours. But then again, you've been brainwashed by the Republican party into turning against your own class interests.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      @Brussard: A – MEN.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • EndangeredMiddleClassWakeUP

      Deunionizing will put everyone on an equal footing alright – everyone who isn't rich will be poor. Don't take my word for it – look at history – even the history of the US prior to the return of the troops from WWII. Since it's inception, Democracy has always been at war with Plutocracy.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • avila

      Britt J:
      A couple of thoughts – you never mention your salary. That's usually the big difference. You, and others in the private sector, statistically make more money than those of us in the public sector. Your starting salary is more as are raises, depending on the job. Public school teachers' starting salary is much less than many of those in the private work force...and in most states a master's degree is required to teach! I'm so glad that those of us in education are a source of such humor for you (the butt of jokes). I assume you don't have school age children. If you do and you live in WI. I suggest you move out soon!!! Or will you soon be posting your whiny complaints because you state just can't find anyone to teach there!! It won't be so funny then!! Wisconsin, along with the rest of this country is in big trouble and people like you are too stupid to realize it!!! Good luck!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Hey Avila,

      When you post "facts" you might want to show some data for them. Here's an actual breakdown of public vs private sector pay and benefits. Let me know when you realize that not only is your pay better but we're paying for your benefits which are also better. And now you want more? Give me a break!

      From the BLS

      http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/private-vs-public-sector-pay/

      March 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sanity

    When liberals dont get what they feel they deserve, they "take it to the streets" burn, destroy, shutdown, til they get it...they did it in France and Greece.....they are way scarier than the Tea Party could ever be!! Im am proud of the courage these Wisconsin legislators have shown in these difficult times!!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Real courage would have been to raise taxes on wealthy Wisconsinites, who benefit disproportionately to the tax-payer finded infrastructure in that state. Again, Main Street Republicans, what do you get out of being tools in your own demise?

      March 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • jacobdk

      So Lola, I am of the middle-class. I worlk for my money to get live. Why should I be taxed more or the rich should be taxed more to pay for the same services that all residents are receiving. They are not changing the public workers pay, they are not taking away the public workers right to bargan on wages, but they are taking away the barganing rights on the other bennifits. They are not being hurt any more than the union was going to conceed, they just can not come back in a month and raise the bennifits back to high rates.
      Again, why do I have to pay more taxes because I make more?

      March 10, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • jay

      Jacobdk, I dont think that lola is talking about middle class people such as your self. I think that lola is talking about the people who are so rich that they are swimming in pools of money (figuratively, that is).

      March 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Davis

      @Lola. You say raising taxes on people who you work for, to get what you feel you deserve is Fair? Don't you see that is what Repubs are doing..... only it's YOU that are richer than us!! You want to raise MY taxes to make U richer.... While I get paid less for the same amount of work! And none of you Educated Dems see the Hipocracy in your argument??? Astonishing how your greed has corrupted your Reasoning. U R DONE!!

      March 10, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sandy

    Good grief, unions still exist in the private sector. Just not in the public sector. No wonder Wisconsin was going broke.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • EndangeredMiddleClassWakeUP

      You're fighting the wrong enemy. That only helps the rich get richer as middle class faces extinction.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. szaggy

    The average teacher pension in Wisconsin is worth close to ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Think I am making it up. Do the math...60-70% of their top pay starting at the age of 55-57 for the rest of their lives. Absolutely ridiculous.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • stargazer0413

      So are you saying this level of retired pay is worse than the golden parachutes managers get from big companies? Check your facts before spewing.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • EndangeredMiddleClassWakeUP

      Unfortunately that's what the retirement experts tell us we all need in order to retire. If more of us were union, maybe more of us would have it, after the corporations trashed our retirement funds (remember those?). Why are you upset when a middle class person has been able to achieve just enough to retire, according to the experts, and not furious about CEO Golden parachutes as they sneak out the back door while the company dissentigrates?

      March 10, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
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