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. tammy

    Hernandez USA. What do you think is going to happen when all collective bargaining rights are stripped, funds are cut to municipalities PLUS they are not allowed to raise property tax revenue with the shortcome.
    Walker is essential forcing a mass layoff of public employees. So much for caring about jobs.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Tammy – exactly! That is what is going to happen and every Walker backer I've talked to or heard from denies this an for some reason cannot see this coming.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • JackWalter

      Thanks Tammy for spelling it out. Hernandez doesn't have a clue. This is NOT about cutting the budget at all. Any thinking person; someone who can think and reason for themselves understands what's really behind this issue. Passing of the bill is an absolute shame. And for those comments made about union mobs, who the heck to you think is behind this. The Koch brothers aren't saints so do your research.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gary

    This is a GREAT day for Wisconsin!!!!! Tax payers in this great Country are sick and tired of what Unions have done to this great Country!! THANK you Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans!!!!

    March 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • PamH

      Do you a five day week? Then thank the unions.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • One Nation

      once these workers see that DON’T have to be part of the Union and can keep their dues (they can spend it better then any Union could anyway) They will realize how ridiculous this all was. The Union workers don’t realize they were just puppets under Obamas regime

      March 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      Thank the unions? Please. the fact you equate public unions with that of the trade unions (who were the ones that got the 8 hour day, 40 hour week movement) is sickening.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whiney Libs

      Schools failing. Thank a union.
      Children can't read. Thank a union.
      No personal accountability or motivation. Thank a union.

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

    Way to go WI governor. Break up those greedy unions. There are laws in place for working conditions. Little money is better than no money, which will happen if these greedy unions keep pushing the jobs overseas.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Really? Unions push jobs oversees?? What about corporate top management pushing jobs oversees and unions trying to protect the workers who are about to lose their jobs?

      March 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |

      @Jack, If unions were not asking for $50+/hr to push a button then maybe corporations wouldnt be moving jobs overseas so they can sell their items here in the US and the average non union person can afford them.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • PamH

      You dummy, this is about state jobs, they can't go overseas!

      March 10, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |

      @Pam, I was talking about private company unions. However, technically the jobs could go overseas if an outside contractor (like Halliburton) came in and took the jobs.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • GT66

      How in God's name do you think those laws got there? How in God's name do you think the average man has the power to get those laws enforced? Are you really that dumb that you can't make the connections? Those laws and their enforcement exist ONLY because of the power of the unions. Do you think a dirty trickster like Scott Walker will stop here? Do you really believe he killed collective bargaining just because? He killed it for a reason and that reason is phase 2 of his scheme.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • GT66

      PamH: It's called H1B. Look it up.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Patrick

    The rhetoric comparing Walker to Hitler or this situation to that of Egypt or Libya or the holocaust is just stupid. Walker's doing the same thing he did before at a local level and exactly what he said he'd do when he was running for office. I wish we had the funds to reward the best and brightest state workers, especially teachers, but union rules prevent a fair, merit based system and instead impose a broke one where the problem is kicked down the line or you end up like IL where we had a 3% tax increase to help balance a budget already wrought with an unstable public employee pension system. The demands of the original bill were completely on-par with private sector concession made due to the recession. Only when union power was threatened did unions come to the table. No, it's not public employees fault for the budget mess, but it wasn't like their retirement, cost of insurance or pay took a dive when everyone else's did.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moe NY

      Patrick: You sound evnious that union workers pay, benefits, pensions, etc. did not tank when the economy tanked. The reason for this is because of unions. Do not be envious....join a union if you want these rights....the republicans/teabags of america will not stand up for your rights as a worker, only unions will. The republicans/teabags of this country only want to divide american workers.....pit family against family, neighbors against neighbors. Do not feed into this divide and conquer mentality. Before you come back and call me a union thug....no I am not a union member, but can see the writing on the wall.

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

    It's not about the budget cuts. The Dems already agreed to those. It's about the collective bargaining rights, but of course, everyone seems to be cheering on the top 1% rich people...

    A unionized public employee, a member of the tea party and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the tea partier and says, 'Watch out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie."

    March 10, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • MN Tom

      cookie joke is getting old. i work for a non union company, paid very well for what i do. if a union would be formed at the company the company would close its doors. already been spoken about there.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. F.U. Frank

    Nice of you to blame the unions for being greedy and throwing out wild numbers like "6 figure bus drivers". They should be applauded for fighting for their rights to a decent wage and retirement. Not dragged through the mud from jealous peasants doing the kings bidding. It was rich greedy bankers and their heavy-lobbied politicians whom wrecked our economy and put states it the red and caused the pension funds to go broke. It is Wall Street greed to blame, not blue collar workers!

    March 10, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      And you wonder why union jobs are going overseas. Hmmmmmm

      March 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • scadurfee

      hay F U, you are so brain washed by union mantality, you are now brain dead. unions had their place in the early 1900s. they made shops a safer place, got rid of child labor, just to name a few. since then, they have promised a world of wealth, if you only belong to a union.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      Guy, the highest paid person in the city of Madison was a bus driver who made over 159,000 dollars last year cause he kept working double and triple overtime. It's not ridiculous. It's truth.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gary

    Now I can go back to boxing up happy meals and apple pies while customers insult me all day.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Clifford Collier

    Now you know why the FBI. is takeing out the Mob. You can't have a mob and a Wisconsin govener or Ohio govener after all the government is the Bigest Crook of all. All hail Adolf Walker! Where is our Federal Government are they not supposed to look out for our rights???

    March 10, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. F.U. Frank

    Let's not forget that the Govenor was busted admitting he is doing this to bust the unions and not about the budget. Plus this bill pushed through last night was stripped of it's fincial parts to allow a vote. More proof this was never about the budget!

    March 10, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |

      They just did what should be done with all large bills, break it apart and vote on smaller portions of it. The financial part of the bill (which had approval from both sides) should pass with flying colors.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. seebofubar

    The arrogance of the liberals in this country is only surpassed by their ignorance. Sometimes I truly feel sorry for you, not having enough brain cells to have a sentient thought. If I were you, I would run down to your nearest Walmart, pick up a few more cells then try real hard to actually understand the problems that this country and the world are facing before you spew your ignorance on the blogs.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • PamH

      Are you being paid by the Koch brothers or are you just an alien as you surely cannot be from this planet.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • F.U. Frank

      Hey seebofubar.... Liberals don't shop at Wal-Mart, they're smart enough to not shop at places that pipe Chinese crap into our country that wrecks our economy and poisions our land.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony Perkins

      I am a non-union small business owner in SW Missouri and I am 100% behind the workers in WI. At what point will all citizens agree that we must pay more in taxes to pay our way and not pass the bill onto future generations. Our decision to take profits now will only cost more in taxes the longer we delay.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • mycatsbreathsmellslikecatfood

      SEEBOFUBAR – speaking of ignorance and arrogance... you comment provided nothing but your hateful option of a political group.

      kudos, youre a moron who is more wrapped up in politics like its a sporting even that you cannot even see the two working together to screw you over...but at least you got to use some big words and feel important

      March 10, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • no_astroturf

      Obviously another Koch brothers/Walker troll. Maybe even works for Faux News.

      Beware the astroturf.


      March 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. PamH

    Every public employee should go on strike – see how the governor can save money then. Maybe he can contract out all of the jobs to ex-fellons like he did before. Cheap labor that is what he wants.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Greg

    1) What do governors/congress make a year and what are their benefit packages?
    2) Do representatives and congress families have to pay back student loans?
    3) If they serve only 1 term, what benefits do they get to keep FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES?
    4) How much of their pay do they get to keep in their retirement package?
    5) Do most union workers with retirement packages agree to give up social security benefits?

    Statement: I don't remember hearing anyone in the private sector complaining about how low public workers pay scale was and has been for years when they were doing well. When the private sector was getting huge bonuses and living past their means, I don't remember them complaining about how the public workers pay increase was frozen or non-existent. Now you want us to suffer because you are...........(expletive) you!

    March 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      There are so many things flawed with you line of thinking, you really need to educate yourself. They don't have to pay student loans? What? Do union members agree to give up social security benefits? They have to due to an old legal fight about the federal government's right to tax state workers

      The country has 2.2 million federal civilian workers — compared with 19.4 million at the state and local levels. While more than half of Americans think federal workers are overpaid, federal pensions and salaries are actually less generous on average than those of many state and local jobs.

      Put down the kool-aid, turn off Rachel Maddow, and educate yourself about the actual issues rather than tout nonsense about how public employees weren't getting raises when the rest of everyone else was. Proper benefit and pension management can exist on a state government level with support of unions – look at NC. They don't exist when the problem is booted down the line for 'something to worry about another day' while we worry about giving raises for the here and now.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Moe NY

    In my opinion, Gov. Walker is a liar....has been proven especially in light of the Ian Murphy phone call. I am for the unions...public or private...they keep a balance between corporate america and politicans in the public sector. I do agree that americans need to tighten their collective belts, but I, also, believe that all politicans should be making concessions also....i.e. take a pay cut, pay something into your benefits, pay into social security, medicare, etc. I am tired of supporting all these politicans. Hope the unions and their fight for the american workers prevail, without the unions american workers are truly doomed. As for Walker, he disgusts me on so many levels, especially his being bought and paid for by corporate america....this man is not for the american workers, or the middle class/poor of this country...he is, in my opinion all for himself and american's be dammed.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mrs sippy

    nice one gov! There is more than 1 way to ski n a cat!

    March 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Frank


    March 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I agree! Some of these union protesters are teachers. Teachers! Unbelievable.

      Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs. Union thugs.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Very well stated. The behavior of these protesters is awful.
      Union THUGS! Union THUGS! Union THUGS! Union THUGS! Union THUGS! Union THUGS! Union THUGS!

      March 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • AntiCommie

      Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!! Union thugs!!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • no_astroturf

      Do you get paid for each ridiculous word you type? You must be a millionaire by now.

      Beware the astroturf.


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