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. Norm

    They should revoke the bill of rights too! and anything else they feel like! I mean whatever it takes to save money right. Hell that being a thought, why not just make everybody in the state of Wisconsin a slave! Take all the money their families had and shove it up the governors @$$. that way next time he sh!ts out another terrible idea, he'll have the money as a preventative measure!

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

    Try to stand up to a corporation on your own and see how quickly you get fired, REGARDLESS of your performance. This is why Unions came about, to curb abuse and balance the scale.. to make things fair. Everyone that wants to take Union rights away, are simply envious of not having that power themselves because they have been tamed by a corporation. If the benefits and DIGNITY that comes from these rights were a NATIONAL RIGHT, NONE of you would be complaining. THE GREATEST ECONOMIC BOOM AND MIDDLE CLASS EXPANSION, CAME WHEN THIS COUNTRY HAD UNIONIZED workplaces. So the argument that they bring down the country is bogus and ignorant.

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

      Hey FC, look around. The largest union membership is in the public gov't sector, not in the private sector. I believe in unions for private industry but this Madison thing is about the gov't collective bargaining agreement contract with a "democratic party funnel $$" union is an albratross on managing a state budget. Unions keep people who should be fired because of their work ethics. There are federal laws to go up against an abusive boss, etc. The most productive companies in the world are unionless, go figure. We have the gov't employees in unions, I rest my case.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bigge

    And for you people dogging the Union, they have lead the way for U to earn a living today.. Read your history, ask your Grandparents and your elders about it.... With all the people this bill has effected, easy money in 2012... I love the way you Repub's are happy about being robbed... The Repub's have strong mine control, we can afford tax break for the wealthy but collective barginning will take us over the budget....It looks like a red states has turned blue in 2012.. Thank you.....

    March 10, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DocJake

    Yepee! One step closer to a right to work state!!!

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

    If they really want to plug the budget shortfalls how about finally making the corporations and wealthy pay their fair share in taxes instead of giving them all these tax breaks and loopholes that allows them to pay the bare minimum in taxes. They also need to raise the capital gains tax since most of the money the wealthy make is from capital gains. Once the states and the federal government does this an increase in revenue will occur.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    Unions are for lazy people; who can't do an honest 8hr days work, depend on seniority to keep their job instead of their work ethic, are overpaid for their "lack" of education, should I go on??

    March 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • CaptObvious

      Yeah.. keep going and we'll let you know when you finally say something that is TRUE.

      You apparently aren't familiar with WI teachers and other members of our state unions. Quality and class.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    Welcome to the real world. A place where you dont get to keep your job just because you've been there x amount of time.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • CaptObvious

      .... unless you're a pilot. It's all about flight time!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bill

    Darwinism at it's finest! Maybe some of these slackers will get a taste of what accountability and performance-based work are all about...

    March 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. timetells

    Why do large companies settle in "non-union" states? The Gov must make every attempt (and show effort) to give union companies contracts (FACT) The politicians want to give contracts to fat cat buddies that don't have or don't want union work forces becuase they have to pay them fair wages. So how do they solve this problem for the buddies and pass out the "no-bid" contracts? Are we really calling the guy that just wants to provide for a family and make a fair wage GREEDY? While the top execs of these same companies take home million dollar a year salaries and bonuses? The tail is really starting to wag the dog now.

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

      Ever see the results of union work...it ain't pretty.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • ItsAboutTime

      "The tail is starting to wag the dog now"? Ahhmmm, I'm not sure you read the article or saw any of the news footage but the vote was against the unions (they lost). Rest assured that the dog is still in control. If the union is a tail then think of the dog as a Doberman with a little bitty bobbed tail.

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

    When money wins, you live in a capitalist system.
    When the poor wins too, you live in a communist system.
    When you get screwed, you live in a system.

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

      What Jason? What does your broken statement mean?

      March 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • MJ

      Corporatism benefits corporations at the expense of taxpayers.
      Democracy benefits the majority at the expense of the minority.
      Unionism benefits members at the expense of non-members.
      Socialism benefits those who aren't productive at the expense of those who are.

      The only system that is moral is the system where no one benefits off someone elses hard work.
      That system is capitalism/free markets/voluntarism. All describe a system where an individual keeps what he earns and isn't coerced by the state to help anyone else [whether they're corporations, unions or otherwise]. That's the only moral system. Voluntary society > involuntary society.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boycott

      Boycott any corporation or business that gave to Walker's campaign

      March 10, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Yatwz

    Ruger has a new hand gun, it's called the "Union Worker", it doesn't work and you can't fire it....

    March 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barry from Wisconsin

      And Colonel Sanders has a new chicken. It is called a Republican chicken because it only has a right wing….

      March 10, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Good one!!!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      I meant good one to Yatwz's comment.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      And it's a million times better than their crappy Democrat chicken with only a left wing but is still alive enough to run away and hide from it's duties.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • AzHitman

      Your chicken joke can be said for the left too, you flop sir.

      Yawtz on the other hand was actually very funny. lol

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

      Barry...that makes no sense, kinda like Democrat union slackers.

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

      Barry a chicken is much more accurately depicted by the 14 dems that ran away and hid from their job

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

      A right wing chicken would already be dead, stuffed and roasted with the best honey and have strings pulling the wings to raise at everything the chicken master wanted

      March 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • k206

      Sounds like the colt politician to me

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

      The planes in the air, the trucks on the streets, the trains on the tracks, the George Washington Bridge, the Empire State Building, the tanks that take our soldiers into battle and the care you receive in your hospital – all built and provided by useless lazy union thugs?

      March 10, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sixoh

      Hellmut is a moron – at issue here are the gov't unions...a double dose of evil if there ever was one. All those products you named were built by union members fo private companies. Yes BIG difference.

      How many "union thugs" does it take to fill a city pothole? – 7. One to dig a hole, one to supervise, 3 to stand around, and 2 asleep in the gov't union truck!

      March 10, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • iceman

      I have an AR-15 and it works fine. You may find out how many working people own guns.

      March 10, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kandi Apple

      This whole thing in Wisconsin is not about money, it's about power. The Reich Governor and Nazi Legislature are under the misconception that Wisconsin is a sovereign State and that they have the right to Govern the People of that State. They even think that Wisconsin is part of a Republic.

      Nay, this sovereignty of States was just a silly notion of greedy old men. What's important is the fair, common welfare of all the American People and who better to define that welfare than a strong, but equitable and caring central Government? Hmmm, Hmmm?

      March 10, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben2Nice

      Good one! Dead beats

      March 11, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  12. Barry from Wisconsin

    Each one of the Republican clowns that rammed this through the Assembly is up for election in 2012. We (and a lot of other Wisconsinites) will remember this attack on people – an attack on workers everywhere.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan

      Sorry this was not an attack on workers as you claim it is in fact a benefit to workers.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • confused

      Isn't that the same things Dems did with Health Care?

      March 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • hellmut

      Until then we can stop supporting the Koch's by not buying Brawn paper towels, Northern Quilted bathroom tissue and Stainmaster carpet.

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

      Im a worker. Its not an attack on me. Please dont speak in my place.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike j

      Well, Barry, just so you know, if your an average worker with an average worker's income there then you are making less than the average salary the teacher. Think about it. You the taxpayer pay their salary. If the teachers are making more than you then you better believe are the gov lawyers, engineers and other specialists are making way more too. You got to remember as an employer, which this case the average workers as a whole, can't go in debt paying thier employees salaries that = bank ruptcy.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Barry, you have to remember there are a heck of a lot of us from WI who will vote in 2012 who will want to keep these leaders in office that helped to pass this bill today. Sorry – but you don't deserve anything more from your contributions to WI or to your job than the next guy – and the next guy is sick and tired of union mentality that says – "I'm better than the average taxpayer." Cause guess what – you ain't!! Sorry .... now we're all on a level playing field whether you like the field or not. Work and be thankful. Keep the money you would normally give to unions to stack the dems pockets and be thankful – or move aside and let someone who needs a job – any job – step in. Lot of folks hurting right now and the union hasn't helped that in any way. In fact, they've hurt by putting money in the dems pockets and now we've had four years of dem majority in washington – and guess what – it's broke...

      March 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      @Mary: In other words, union workers must bear the brunt caused by the private sector, while the private sector gets to continue to outsource jobs and thus wash its hands of the mess it created. How do you sleep at night, knowing that you champion the stealing of food from children's mouths?

      March 10, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeannie

      the people we elect are suppose to do what we want. kick them all out and replace with people that will do what we pay them for. and no they don't deserve a pension of that magnitude at our expense. and certainly not for life. there is no politian worth that much.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dusty

      Are people in Wisconsin so stupid they can't remember THEY voted for this last November. The Republicans made it clear this was going to happen. So why the surprise now... Whats wrong with a fair table...??? Unions dont deserve better benefits and wages than the rest of America and its about time this lameness is reversed.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Recall ? Vote him out 2012??? lol good luck with that !!

      March 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • kenai kid

      Good by and good riddence to the middle class! What a bunch of whiners! As for the teachers ... what a bunch of pithetic over paid baby sitters. I think they should be paid only by the parents that have children in school! $3.50 per hour per kid (that's what my 17 year old makes). At that rate (based on 30 kids per class, 6.5 hours a day, 160 days a year) they would only make roughly $110,000.00 per year!

      March 10, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • dawgrude

      Was attacked by a union boy years ago when they were picketing my jobsite. Reroofing some school projects. They had signs and were calling me a cutthroat contractor. Kinda gave him the old school ass kicking as my roofing crew ran off the rest of the sissies. That was the end of their attempt to unionize my BIZ!! Davis -Bacon and all the other union fixes need to go away

      March 10, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. matt

    Unions Now ! Wait till the goverment leaders tell the news reporters not to report the real news.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      They already do that and have been for years.

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

      The teachers need to be back in the classrooms indoctrinating our children how to be good little commies – social justice – union organizing – reedin, riotin & thuh peoples maths!

      Just goes to show you how much – THE RETHUGLIKKKANS HATE THE CHILDREN!

      March 10, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jason Glugla

    I truly hope that the people posting here who worship corporations are being paid for it. Everything that the people who built this country, who fought and died for this country is being laid to waste. The Republican party and a good chunk of the Democrats think that the days of indentured servitude when people owed their souls to the company store were pretty good days. The idea of a large group of uneducated people all fighting each other for jobs which will lead to nothing but more debt is their unswerving goal for the United States. I hope all you imbeciles who spend your day dittoing your Rush Limbaugh are very happy when the new United States about because Rush cares about you very much.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • GT66

      Very astute observation. Most of the pro-con blowhards here are barely intelligent enough to see a complete sentence through let alone the decades of struggle for union representation and decent working wages and conditions. It'll be interesting to see how many of the trailer park Republicans line up for non-union work in the mines.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • ekremer

      Bunch of whiners. GO TO WORK and quit whining. Instead, all they do is complain like a bunch of children. We all pay for our own retirement, health care, in the private sector, why the hell shouldn't you? What makes you so GD special? Union workers are overpaid, and a big reason jobs have moved overseas. Stuff moves to mexico, india because the employees go to work...and WORK, not whine like a bunch of little kids. DEAL WITH IT, GET OVER IT, GO TO FREAKIN' WORK!!!!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Where have you been Jason. The US has been in a new normal state for a long, long time. Rush has nothing to do with anything right now. He has a job, he's working and he's talking about things – who cares. What's important is that people are working – and if people really want to protest – protest drug companies who rip people off and hold them hostage for medicines to cure their loved ones. Or, protest the president's stance on healthcare in general – as no one is better today just because of Obamacare – in fact, latest polls show people paying more, getting less and more people being restricted from the meds they need.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • endbiggov

      Corporations and small businesses create jobs and sustainable prosperity. Unions never create jobs or sustainable prosperity. The forced-union states are going to be perpetually bankrupt because they are losing corporations and businesses to extort money from. The end result of unions is to turn everyone in the U.S. into a bunch of beggars because unions reduce or destroy the profitability of any company. Union labor is subject to supply and demand for wages and that will be proven when union employees lose their jobs and workers and business move from forced-union states to right-to-work states.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • jon roggles

      A few things to keep in mind. Union membership is at an all time low, not due to lack of popularity but because the manufacturing jobs are gone. Unions are desperate for members, because members are $. Help me understand why UW faculty and grad students need collective bargaining. Not exactly a coal mine with adults and children forced to work in deadly conditions for long hours. Even that first, great Liberal pres., FDR, was opposed to unions for public employees .

      March 10, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Robert

    Greedy public employee union leaders really want their hands on our tax dollars, don't they?

    Private employee unions make sense. Public employee unions are different, especially when the leaders have their elected campaign-paid-for buddies "negotiating" for the "other side". They can really line their pockets with our tax dollars.

    Thank God the federal government has never allowed this corrupt public employee union system.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beantown

      What have you done for public service? O, I get it...people should serve for free–right? Starve to death, and not feed their family? RIGHT?!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Actually, many public employees are unionized. Postal service among them. And lets see....over 5 Billion in debt. Let Fedex or UPS take over mail delivery! As a matter of fact. I know firsthand that numerous federal agencies use UPS to deliver packages due to the fact that the US Postal service cant deliver on time or at all.

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

      It's just the beginning don't be fooled. This has been a long standing plan and every year we get closer to a 2 class society. 1965- average CEO made 24 times the average worker. 2005 the average CEO made 313 times the average worker. Give it another 40 years and it will be around 1,000 times more just like mexico, brasil, africa, etc. which are already over 1,000 times more than the average worker.

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

      And...FedEx and UPS guys get paid a heck of a lot better.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • stargazer0413

      Sorry Robert, you're wrong. Federal workers do have unions, e.g., AFGE, etc. I'm a former civil servant and former member.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • YouAreWrong

      So, you defined greed as someone who is trying to earn a decent living, put their children through college, pay their bills and save some money for retirement? What on earth would you call those Wall Street bankers who demand 6 digit bonuses then?

      March 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beantown

      It's called reform unions to make them more effective. For example, instead of collective barganing, they should collectively quit. Who wants to work where they're not appreciated. Could you imagine how many private employees would be saying "woops"!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      hey Bill, can you prove that employees get paid better at FedEx or UPS, compared to employees with the US Postal Service? I doubt it. The gap in pay has all but dimished according to many news articles this year. Plus, fed. employees benefits are MUCH better than their private counterparts.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • k206

      Robert you sound like Wal-Marts CEO .

      March 10, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
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