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. Harvey Wallbanger

    It's about time the unions were stripped of some of the power they enjoyed to be inefficient, inflationary, and to protect their own that are incompentent and lazy. Hopefully, other governments will take note and follow in Wisconsin's footsteps.

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

    Wolff just reported that Walker's support was deminishing. He is such and idiot, his support is on the up swing not down you idiiot left wing nut.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • CaptObvious

      Ummmm... not according to the vast majority of the polls. Where pray-tell do you get your information? Nevermind, silly question.

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

    Part of the problem is that the government pays them using taxes, then the unions take some of that tax money and pay to help elect democrats. How wrong is that? Taxpayer money shouldn't support either side directly.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim B

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

      March 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MikeBell

    Let the State Police and Security handle it.
    Everyone else needs to stay away or check with their local law enforcement for any need for deputies or support volunteers. Don't be sucked into direct confrontation with the 'Brats'.

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

    Union Thugs or not, people deserve the bargaining right. Yes the union are too powerful, yes they are doing a disservice, but stripping away a basic right is by no mean an accomplisment to acheive fiscal responsbility. I say the Governor take a pay cut, reduce his benefits, .... I am not sure which position to take but I thinl both sides needed to have a mutual agreement, not do a la Bush style – Unilaterilism in a big no!
    I hate Unions. I live in CA and teachers Unions are infuriating. All the talent is pushed away due to a bad teacher having reached tenureship within 2 years. Not to mention the poor oversight from the bureaucrats enriching themselves.
    America needs to take a hard look at itself. Education should never be the first place to cut, never ever. There is always a return on investment on your education, all it takes is patience, faith and hardwork.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. capn'canuck

    every revision back is just that, backwards...it's a slippery slope, just as the patriot act has been in term of curtailing rights and freedoms...the clowns in charge are getting MORE of the control over your lives.....

    March 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bj1ii

    There is no one more corrupt than a republican politician and all republican politicians are corrupt.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim A

    Unions-they cause unemployment and do push jobs overseas. The world is much smaller than in Steinbeck's days. We pay you more for less work and are all made worse off because of it.

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

      God, do you ever stop pulling facts out of thin air? Unions have shrunk immensely over the course of the last 30 years, while outsourcing has increased. That doesn't sound like a very solid correlation to me.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • CaptObvious

      Ummmm... this is about state workers... almost 100% local service industry. Show me just one of those jobs that an be emigrated.

      Try to be relevant.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dave

    Republicans would kill your child if it could save them money.

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

      that is a scary thought :0(

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

      Obviously was speaking figuratively. But it is true. They would rather kill teacher's Union rights than put the billionaires who wrecked our economy in jail and take back the money they stole from our treasury.

      A value system so backwards and evil, it defies any sense of reason, logic or morality. Self-serving greed is no system in which to base a society.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      Thats retarded! Thats why you left wing whack jobs need unions to bargain for better wages cause your too ignorant to have a job that pays well!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Derek, your vs you're? so... shush.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • badboy1


      March 10, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ejf

    all I can add is this, when corporations runs the show, with no rights to workers to anything as a result of participating in corporate profits, american workes will be reduced to third world country, soon china will be sending goods over to america to be produced. MADE IN USA, will be the new tag.........american workers are screwed by corporations from here on in, forget the past, the bargaining rights of those workers were taken away, all the soldiers who have died in the past for our freedom just turned over in their graves................start reading the bible, the bible will tell you how its going to be, was and how it is! religion is the healer of all evil, i cant believe this has happened, God Bless Us All!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. capn'canuck

    when you contiually ask the people to make consessions and not those at the very top, the wall street thieves, you are handing over your rights, freedoms and power....prepare to suck it up over the next degenerative decades

    March 10, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jim A

    The corporations you owe for the computer you typed this message on, right ejf?

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

      Classic red herring, but I guess it would be too much to ask for you conservatives to learn how to argue logically.

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

    I bet you bought it at wal-mart, and it is a Lenovo.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Des Moiner

    More Walker fascism and fanaticism. Heaven forbid the sheeple should DEMAND anything but the scraps falling from the altar of rampant corporatism and unbridled greed. CEO's and apparently governors can be greedy, but god help the little guy if wants a slice of pie too. Cops and firemen seemed to do just fine. I wonder why that is??? I'm sure it had NOTHING to do with campaign donations. Civil (and uncivil) insurrection is the only thing that will cure this. They are outnumbered and need to be reminded of this DAILY!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Texas Girl

    I'm scratching my head here. I live in Texas, which has an always will be an anti-union state. We've survived, as have many states that are anti-union. The big difference between us and Wisconsin is that "workers' rights" is an oxymoron. You do not have the "right" to anything. ANYTHING. If you do get a job, it is a privilege. I've worked for many employers, and it's common to see health benefits go down and contributions to pensions and health insurance go up. No, no one likes it. But you grumble a little and suck it up, or, if you're working solely for that benefit package, you find another job. What's the big deal, Wisconsin?

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

      Your state is also removing the words "slave" from history books when describing the "slave trade" of the American colonies up until the Civil War. Political right-wing indoctrination of a lie by omission (and so many other things Texas did to hack their history books) is what happens AFTER you take away rights of teachers. Texas also ranks in the middle, at 25, for overall state education standards. You know who was #1? Vermont. And their state's largest union is the teacher's.


      Better pay equals better teachers equals better education for your kids. It's not complex math at all.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • CaptObvious

      Ummm... you DID know that the unions did agree to give up the benefits and pension portion of the package already.. didn't you? This hasn't been about those issues for a couple of weeks. Tie to catch up!

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