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. Feliks

    Taxpayers pay public worker wages that they earn. They are also tax payers, and the also pay the guys that supply gasoline, make electricity, sell groceries, make the beer we drink and the list goes on my friends !!!!!

    March 10, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      not to mention, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker...... lol

      March 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JOE B

    I couldn't be happier this bill was passed! The democrats pull "tricks" all the time but if it's done to them boo hoo. The missing dems played a trick and it backfired! hahahahaha. I am forced to be in a private sector union. My dues are used against my political wishes. Public employees should not hold us hostage. The dues should not be used against all people. I applaud Gov. Walker and I hope more states follow!

    March 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rick Rodriguez

    Nothing good will ever come from Unions. It only serves one purpose, and that is never good. Balance is the key. Fiscal responsibility is the key. Unions blow.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bad union

    too bad tell protesters to get a job or go to the one they have and do something productive (instead of getting fatter (in more ways than one)) at theit cush govt job. THey s/b denied health care all together until they lose 50 pounds or so.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. falcon63

    Can someone explain something to me.....how does the state of Wisconsin give tax breaks to Corporations in the same amount they say they have a deficit? How does that happen? And how does making the workers pay for that tax break work econoically? Where are the Wisconsin Jobs? Oh yeah that is right they are in India and China and the ones commenting against the workers make a whopping 9 dollars an hour.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tim

    You know what's wrong with conservatives? That they lie. Their side is so ugly that if they didn't they wouldn't stand a chance. They lie to hide the fact that they serve the rich who don't give a DAMN about you and me. We're nothing to them. Their point of view isn't "the real american way" it's the way of selfishness. Selfishness is the foundation of their rhetoric and will remain so until we DO something. Until we say, "No more!", we have to take a stand here and now not for the sake of america but for the sake of humanity and our children! To protect our human rights and our planet. Because if we kill this one then we're screwed! We must fight back and win BACK our rights from those who treat us as peasants and criminals. We must do this NOW.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      that's strange...... i usually have to look for feelings of guilt in ones eyes before I call them a liar.

      March 10, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John

    Instead of thinking "wow, these people have great benefits and make good money, I want this for myself" Most of you are saying if I cant have it, neither can you. Its the politicians that should get the pay cuts and benefit reductions not the common worker.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Feliks

      Careful now... you may hurt someones feelings. I just wish they realized if union workers get less so will they in the end. Unions help the non- union workers in a way they don't understand.. And they don't even pay dues.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. falcon63

    What I see is most of you are jealous because you cannot negotiate a good deal for yourself. I guess you should have stayed in school or at least went. Then your 9 dollars an hour job would be more like the ones the teachers have. Pllus do you really want someone who is making 9 dollars and hour to teach your children about anything? Most of you are jealous you do not have the deal the teachers have...but the last time I checked there isnt one teacher on the Forbes 400 list is there? So the teahcers dont seem to be any better off then you jealous types. Unbelievable..

    March 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Qev

      You' ve hit the nail right on the head.


      March 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Qev

    Dear Wisconsin,

    You've been Had...

    March 10, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. falcon63

    What has happened to the great state of Wisconsin....a STATE whose Motto is Forward....so why are we going backwards in workers rights...Why would you allow your state officials whether Republican or Democrat to repeal your rights. Do you really wantt to raise your children in state that will start to resemble the villages of India....where everyone is working seven days just to put food on the table. No hodlidays,suing chemicals that contaminate your water supply because there is no more oversight. Is this really what you as a people want.....such that you would allow the Neo Coporate Control where all your tax dollars funnel into the Koch brother and their new for profit schools or you have to buy water because they own the rights to the only water left that is good to drink. Your states Mild is arguably the best in this country and yet you bicker to lessen your standard of living to that of a third world nation. Why wouldnt you all want more for each other instead of less.

    March 10, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Feliks

    If everyone is so worried about the financial problems of WI why don't we all do a little by asking Walker to raise the sale tax.. The all can help!!

    March 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. falcon63

    I think everyone in your state should have collective bargaining rights.....and should be fighting for them......why would you all want less....wasnt it the bankers who destroyed the financial system that killed the revenue and tax base of America....I really do not think it was the teachers.....and wasnt the bankers who needed to be paid billions of dollars in bonuses because they had contracts....isnt the teachers pension plan and bargaining rights a contract....Oh I get it it is only a contract when it is for the bankers and not a contract when it is for everyday teachers. Your whole state should be mad at the Governor and his puppets.. plus you should be concerned they did it without a true democratic process.......welcome to 1939 Germany in Wisconsin....you should really be scared now...and should definitely want more than what you have.

    March 10, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. falcon63

    Why is it everyone is pointing their fingers at the teachers as your states problem? Don't you understand that the Police and the firemen are next on the list like the NBA, NFL, MLB AND ALL THE OTHER UNIONS........Unions represent a united front against the people we would all call Robber Barons....we read about them when we read or watch a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens...have we learnt nothing about these types and how far they will go to enslave Wisconsin and the rest of man kind. Charles Dickens almost died as a young boy under five while working in a factory....is that what we really want to go to....We are allwoing roughly 400 people control 300 million......They use their media machine and their money to sway opinions and to buy the best govenrment they can to suit their own needs and not yours....how many of your children will you let die in their factories or fields before you say....we no longer Consent?

    March 10, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brian

    Most parents educate their kids from home these days.... public education has become a thing of the past.

    March 10, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chris

    It seems to me that people here need to remember a couple of things.

    1) This is not about the state versus the union, it's about the private sector taxpayer versus the union.

    2) People seem to be worried about the tax breaks to corporations. That makes no sense at all. Corporations don't pay taxes, they collect taxes. If you tax Ford $100 for every car they build the price of the cars will immediately go up by $100 (probably more). The result is the consumer that buys a Ford will pay the tax, Ford will be hurt in the market, and more jobs go overseas.

    March 10, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
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