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. CaptObvious

    It pains me to see that many if not most people are missing the true "hidden agenda" here. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald touched on it last night in his interview, and I'm amazed that people didn't pick up on it.

    Public and private unions collect a substantial amount of money from their members.. money that they then use for political lobbying, and to financially support the election campaigns of politicians that are "friendly" to the unions and their objectives. Typically these are Democrat politicians. Without the unions to collect and focus these monies, the individual members most assuredly wouldn't be as financially active in the political process, nor would they have the same focus.

    By "damaging" the unions and compromising their ability to collect the funds used for political action, Republican politicians can directly enhance their ability to get re-elected, or to have fellow Republicans get elected. It is a direct shot at reducing the Democrat party power and influence in government.

    It also directly helps the "wealthy", who historically support the Republican party. They will have to spend substantially less to get their candidate elected once the union "war chests" are depleted or eliminated.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moe NY

      I agree with you CaptObvious. Walker's actions are nothing but union busting to serve political purposes, and in advocating union busting the republicans/teabags of this world do not care about the impact on the middle class/american workers rights. The teachers, unfortunately, were used as a scapegoat just to get the union busting ball rolling. Walker, in my opinion, is disgusting and should be impeached. After that prank Koch phone call revealed him for the liar he is, cannot understand how anyone in this country could still believe him.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tom

    These are GOVERNMENT unions people. It has NOTHING to do with the wealthy. It's all about leveling the playing field so that local/state governments can balance their budgets and to eliminate the corruption that currently exists between politicians and unions. Bringing up any other issue is just a diversion attempt.

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

      Well said.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • no_astroturf

      Koch brothers troll, no doubt.

      Beware the astroturf.


      March 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Zeta

    Frank, you're acting out again. Go stand in the corner and reflect on your behavior.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brian

    The Public Sector works for the taxpayers.... the private sector works for the stockholders..... the rich get richer because they are the risk-takers....

    March 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jimbob

    Being what I consider a mid-class registerd democrat and coming a liberal background with my fomative years supported on my fathers union wages, I find my position today on the whole wiscosin labor issue in full support of the Govenor. I am not a traitor to my party – I am being true to my belief that mid-class taxpayers cannot continue to pay more for more goverment in any way. It's not easy to fight for the unpopular cause –

    March 10, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stetmore

      Yea, Jimbob, so haaaaarrrd to screw over today's workers now that you have yours and now that you've had a decent middle-class upbringing thanks to unions and government investment in education, infrastructure, and such. When will the slackers of the older generation stop pulling up the ladder, screwing us younger people? Oh, so haaaarrrd for poor you to side with the powerful and the pundits. I'm sure your suffering and persecution is great.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • 372

      No, i think traitor pretty much fits. You pretty much say unions put food on the table and clothes on your back, gave your parents the ability to raise you in the manner you were raised. But screw them i got mine. Bet your parents are proud of their little Judas.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Zeta

    And when the risk-takers lose, there goes the pensions.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Not necessarily.... when I buy a lotto-ticket I take on the risk of investing the money... my return depends on luck. The rich had to take risks to get where they are, and often had to work hard to get there.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ya Baby

    Wis. lawmakers approve stripping most collective bargaining rights from state's public workers – AP

    March 10, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tony

    Well it looks like the dictator of Wisconsin and his merry men have defied a judges order to keep the building open durring normal business hours. It also seems that they will pass this pile of repugnant trash into law wether or not it is being done leagally is of no concern to them. So one has to look back after this and ask themselves is this really what I wanted from my government. if the answer is yes then so be it, if the answer is no then the people have the power to recall every one of them including the dictator himself!

    March 10, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      My answer is 'YES' and I cannot wait until the next election! When more states like Wisconsin stop the corruption between unions and democrats, they will be swept out of office like never before.

      March 10, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    It looks like Wisconsin will be successful in implementing this bill. Congratulations on your courage and determination! Now it is on to the next state ... OHIO and beyond.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jdona

    I truly hope the unions en masse go on strike. They either take a stand now, or we all loose. Bring Wisconsin to a standstill and let Walker figure out how to protect and serve the public without the workers he shows such little respect for.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      If you strike and get fired, don't come crying to me!

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

      Sue- why would we ask a trashbag like you for help when there are good people out there?

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

    This is a sad day in America. Unfortunately, those that think it's just the public sector vs the private sector are missing the point. This is about having your rights as a worker taken and stripped right before you. That in itself should be an injustice! But to have it done in such an arrogant manner is unconsciousable! Perhaps for the simple minded folks we'll look at it in this light, maybe they'll grasp the concept at work here. For those of you in the NRA..yes rednecks, I'm talking to you, you and your low IQ's, imagine having your gun rights striped, taken away just like that. This is the same concept.
    I would only hope that ALL UNIONS will now call upon ALL members Federal, State, County and City to set up a strike. Show all these folks that without anyone in the office, there will be NO unemployment checks sent out due to the workers being out. It's time for ACTION! No services for those that rely upon us, yet still support the Republican bullying.
    Let's quote Niclelback and "Burn it to the Ground"!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. matt

    Union jobs aviable,ass kisser's no need to apply

    March 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moe NY

      Hey Matt: If there are any kissers out there that would bend over to kissing that part of anatomy, it the great Koch kisser Walker. The majority of americans are standing up for their rights, not bending over for corporate america.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Orcastu

    Regardless of your position on this issue this is simply democracy in action. Be proud of it as it is the american way. The people voted the Republican majority into power. They also have the power remove them from power and then change the law with a new legislature. What do think democracy is? This is no different than how healthcare passed in congress.

    Power is in the hands of the people to elect every xx years. Next time get out and vote. There are seats up in 2012.

    I personally believe the democrat senators that fled were reckless and irresponsible. They were elected to serve. Hiding is not serving. I would say the same regardless of the party to anyone who does not fulfill their responsibilities.

    Budgets have to be balanced. This may not be the best way but like I said then change it is 2 years.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • SC

      Finally, someone makes sense. In the mean time, all expense needs to be paid by someone, now or later.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • no_astroturf

      How much are the repugs paying you?

      Beware the astroturf.


      March 10, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Frank

    Everyone who wants to show support for the Wisconsin Bill thats going to be passed, lets have a National Tight Boy Jeans Day tomarrow!!!!!!!!!!! Who's with me?

    March 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Frank

    We have to show our solidarity....GO TIGHT BOY JEANS DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
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