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. skokie

    The sad case about this situation is that it is all about power and politics and the people are caught in the middle.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bobbull

    The hell with union. they do not run this country we do.
    there is more nonunion worker then union worker.
    why is democrat kissing their butts is beyond me.

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

      Beware the astroturf.


      March 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jon

    Democrats were screaming on MSNBC yesterday about the "illegal and undemocratic" vote. Seems to me the Republicans beat them at their own game. This is only the beginning of the change that will soon take place in this country. Change is a'comin alright Mr. Obama..... just not the change you and your socialist friends thought. 2012 is right around the corner.

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

      Right on Jon!!! Yeeee haaaaa......the repubs will have us living in a theocratic monarchy where the rich continue to get richer on the backs of workers and you'll get nothing for your efforts. Hard work and determination will no longer pay off as the corporatistas poison you world and rob you blind. But keep on believing that they have your best interests at heart. You're on a fool's errand if you believe that either of these groups represent you...they represent themselves. I suggest you take up arms and do the same. The amerikan experiment has failed. Rome is burning.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jim A

    THE LITTLE GUY HAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO EARN IT!!! Its there for the taking. Me and my family are proof of that-imigrants to this country who had nothing-all are educated with at least 4 year degrees and all make 6 figure salaries. Figure it out. You don't just get to be wealthy because you are an American. Try working and sacrificing as much as we did

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


      It's just too bad that the education WI school kids are going to be receiving they won't qualify for college. That has little to do with the Union busting but more to do with the new Bill that's being pushed thru. The Union busting was for political clout and a diversion.

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

    This is a slap in the face to the countless American who have fought and died for this cause... And for you people who think you are safe in the private sector, you will be next..... I guess the fact that Gov. Walker being caught on the phone talking with who he assummed the Rich guy Koch. It makes you think, why would Walker assume Kock gave a damm about the bill in the first place, State funds + Koch= Walker bending over State workers...

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

      Actually, the private sector was first – to kill workers' benefits, and to use bankruptcy laws to immorally screw their employees and retirees. If the Republicans have their way, states will be able to declare bankruptcy and subsequently void every union contract.

      Compassionate Conservative = Unicorn

      March 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Monte

    Here's a poll ... What comment do you associate with speaking to a union member?

    A) "My Union has made me a better and more productive worker"

    B) "I'm Union, I don't have to do that"

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

      A, definitely A.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      Answer is B

      March 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • CashMonet

      In all of my interactions with union members, it's been A. You deal with terrible people, not terrible unions.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    This is not about the budget. This is about a snake trying to make a name for himself. Just wait, he will screw the supporters as well in due time. This guy is 100% for himself.
    Wait and see...

    March 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      I guess Wisconsin was doing just fine when the Democrats controlled the state!

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

      Hey Steve, you're clueless like so many Liberal Socialist Democrats (LSD's). Smoke more dope, what ever you do. You might try educating yourself.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. josh

    that's what you get for voting republican.you wanted republican,then take republican.that's what they do always hit the middle class,but why not raise taxes on the rich,why not cut spending on welfare and food stamps,why not look on other viable ways but to hit on the middle class.you get what you vote for.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RMS

    I wish I had some of whatever these tea bagger neo-conservatives are smoking or drinking – Governor Walker is writing history alright but he is not going to come out as a hero. The man is an egomaniac. Anyone who thinks the solution to our current economic crisis is to fire workers and take away workers rights to speak up about their job conditions and not be able to bargain for fair compensation (and this includes retirement and health care) is just in some serious form of denial. If you think giving the corporate/wall street vultures more control over this economy is going to "save the country from fiscal ruin" – you are going to have a very rude awakening. Well, maybe you are being paid by the 2% in control to say these things. I just don't understand your line of reasoning. Look how well the rich have looked out for this country in the past 30 years – greed is just not an economic strategy.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    I've never worked for a poor person. The more rich people the more jobs. That's just how it is. Hopefully one day ill be the rich Guy

    March 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paul

    Greed! When will workers and unions understand that goverments and corporations can not support their demands to continue their present standard of living? Only when American agree to work 12-hour days, for 80 cents an hour, without health insurance, like the Chinese do, only then will corporations receive justice and be able to operate on a level playing field.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bill

    Here is a funny fer 'ya: How many union workers does it take to protest? A: 11 – One to scream and shout and 10 more to stand around and watch.

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

      That is neither funny nor an accurate description of union members. You ever see 10 cops or firefighters standing around while one pulls all the weight? Didn't think so.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Maybe that's why they were excluded? Hmmm...

      March 10, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brussard

      Or teachers, nurses, and corrections officers, all of whom lost their collective bargaining rights. Argument debunked, thanks for playing.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Yeah, you win. Never seen a lazy teacher, or nurses goofing-off around a triage desk. Thankfully, never been to a prison. I guess these union folks deserve more than the rest of us taxpayers, so yeah, I guess you win.

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

      HAHAHA That about right.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Guest

    Amazing what's going on in this country. The rich get tax breaks. The cops and firemen, who are mostly ex-jocks with barely a high school education, are rewarded and get to keep their union benefits.

    The people who decided to educate themselves by getting university degrees and incurred huge amounts of debt, get vilified and pushed.

    Talk about a message

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

      Wahhhh! I worked hard, have a terminal degree, and pay huge loans. I work in a lab, work 10 hour days...not the six hour, 185 days a year of a teacher. Get over yourselves. Most working people have no sympathy for those who get benefits most of us don't.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Billy Boy, to quote your little brain, "get over yourself" You're not the only who works hard!!! As much as your ilk like to preach about Americana as exceptional, you are not that especial, Billy!!

      March 10, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brian

    I work for a corporation, therefore I work for my CEO.... he works for the stockholders..... I own stock in the company....hmmmm... I must be working for myself.

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

      Try mouthing off to your CEO if he's not the boss, then. I doubt your status as share-holder will save you from being fired. It's probably more likely they paid you shares instead of cash/good salary. Am I right? Either way you have a warped perspective.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ken

    Sooo, it turns out that the budget is NOT the issue, it's the Carpetbagging of the Unions that mattered. Koch Poodle Walker broke the laws of the State o Wisconsin to do this but he DID reveal his sole purpose. I expect there to b so many injunctions that the law will be abated until after Poodle Walker is recalled.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
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