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. mer

    Take a hard look at the salaries with benefits the different groups of public employees get compared to private sector workers. How do you think they got there?....collective bargaining!...the taxpayer gets screwd.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Greg

    CNN has become such hacks at the news. You are as biased for Obama and the Socialist left as any liberal out there. How dare you act like the leader when you spew the WH line.

    I turn you on only to see what spin you are putting on it today.

    You have Republican people on ( of which I am an Independent). Only to berate and interrupt them. I just watched Roland Obama interrupt and the when he was act like someone took his toy away. You should be ashamed to not at least ADMIT you are a left station. Everyone knows Ted and Hanoi Jane own you.

    Grow up and grow a set if you want to get your ratings back.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Beantown

    "Um, Mr. fireman...um...Mr. Policemen, could you help me put this fire out"? "Um...sorry little girl, I have to look for another job, perhaps you can hire a efficent private contractor like hallaburton...they should be able to help"

    March 10, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Darcy

    Sad and Disgusted. When did our civilization stop being civil? I am a republican and a union member. I am not proud to be an American at this moment. The way the politicians are acting is teaching our our children that if you have the power you can do whatever you want no matter what anyone else thinks or wants, even if they voted for you.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Feliks

    Do people realize that non-union people are usually paid less than union workers? If not for unions we all would be making less. So when union jobs get cut, and wages get cut, non-union wages will follow suit .All the things your dads and grampas fought for.... Workers rights.... Say good bye to all. Just remember one thing, Once you give something up it is hard to get it back!

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

      Well grandpa worked in steel mill, hot dirty and dangerous work. I'm a democrat and glad the union was there for him. Why do bunch of professors and grad students at UW need a union? Fear of paper cuts? The state government should not habr to negotiate with a union in order to manage the costs of taxpayer funded colleges. Give me a break.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. eric

    I have no problem with union workers IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR collectively bargaining. The problem with the public sector unions is that the people truly paying them ( tax payers) don't have a seat at that bargaining table.

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

      If that's the main issue, why are you not upset that police and fire retained their bargaining rights?

      March 10, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kerri

    They said it is "perfectly legal" but when you are talking to a bunch of lawyers and politicians, "perfectly legal" can be a far cry from ethical.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bill

    If everyone in WI is a repressed, subjugated Democrat, where were you in November? Loud and actionless, clearly.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • EndangeredMiddleClassWakeUP

      Yes, but I'm betting they "won't be fooled again."

      March 10, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kerri

    Do you realize that each of these politicians needs to only be elected for one term and they receive a $15,000/month pension for the rest of their lives? How about reducing their own pension.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tomtom Chantchant

    Michael Moore's message from Madison that the working class should unite resonated with everyone, particularly the majority of all workers not on local, state or federal payrolls, who reached the same conclusion three months earlier.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. anonymous

    Jim B said:

    "The government pays WAGES to its WORKERS. The money that the union takes is deducted from paychecks, not taxes. Lrn2logic"

    you forgot a step in your logic... how does the government pay those workers wages? Oh yeah, through taxes... so essentially the money the union takes is deducted from taxes (albeit in the form of paychecks)

    March 10, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • EndangeredMiddleClassWakeUP

      A drop in the bucket compared to what the rich – the true benefactors of the Republican agenda – rake in. At least union funds go toward attemting to preserve a middle class – which does not have corparate-sponsored lobbiests.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. avila

    I wonder if Governor Walker is man enough to take a ride to any local university in Wisconsin where there have education majors. I'd like to see him walk into one of those classrooms, look those students in the eyes, and convince them why they should go into teaching I can hear it now:
    1. you now have no bargaining rights, save wages
    2. you may bargain for your wages, but if you want more than the rate of inflation, then voters need to approve it; so in other words, you'll virtually never get ahead because your salary won't allow you to – but please, we want the best and the brightest here in our state to teach our children.


    Those of you who support this are too stupid to see what the Republicans have done to you. They've used all of us as pawns, pitting one group against another, to their advantage. Walker has done NOTHING to pull you out of your financial problems. All the monies your state will save in what's been taken away from public employees has been given away in tax cuts for the rich. Don't believe me? Look it up, and stop being so blind! I guarantee that your state will be no closer to closing its fiscal gap anywhere in the near future! Oh, there will be a revolution alright, but it won't be the conservative Repubs. who want the guns...it will be the Dems/unions/Liberals!!!!!

    March 10, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Milwtalk

    Stock market fall? No Unions. No Union pension fund investments. Less income. Less sales. It's trickle up that keeps the country alive. No Social Security. No Johnson & Johnson.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lawrence Legg

    When legislators run away from a vote in anticipation of an unfavorable outcome for their side, I call that subversion of the democratic process. I thought the Democrat party was supposed to uphold the principles of Democracy. What cowards. Fire them all.

    Lawrence Legg, CPA
    Hollywood, Florida

    March 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Steve Withrow

    I salute the Republican Patriots for standing tall and doing the right thing. After viewing the many protesters and their behavior that was urged by the union, the vote 100% correct. Congratulation Mr. Governor!

    March 10, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
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