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. Byrd

    This means war.

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

      Ha Ha a liberal war now that is funny

      March 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • iceman

      Byrd I hop every worker in the U.S. realizes, that it is time to drop the picket sign and pick up a weapon.

      March 10, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Robert


    March 10, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • stargazer0413

      Robert, have you run out of your medications?

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

      You must love the political systems in countries like China, Venezuela, Lybia, Iran, North Korea and Yemen. You have so much in common.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kathy

    I wonder how much the Union paid her to protest, they have been busing in homeless people from Detroit to Wisconsin and Ohio, giving them signs and telling them to protest.

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

      Haha, that's not true at all, post a source confirming this that isn't Fox News.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • hellmut

      What we do know is that billionaires from Kansas have jetted in with their lobbyists to cuddle their lap dog.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • YouAreWrong

      Cite your sources if you want anyone to take your postings seriously.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • kenai kid

      At least the unions are paying! The corporations are stealing from the poor and MAKING them homeless!

      March 10, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Beantown

    What have you done for public service?

    March 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Just_A_Teacher

    As a teacher, I would move my family out of Wisconsin. I don't condone the death threats or any violent activities, but I wouldn't stand for my governor and state government sending me back 40-50 years or more. I teach in a very difficult school to work and have done so for 10 years. I typically am at work from 7 to 4:30 and then do some more work between 10 and 11 at night. People think that teachers work 6 hours a day, but that is not true. The time I am in the class with my students is very high stress. I can't eat, drink, go the bathroom, or sit down. I'm on my feet almost 6 hours straight. Trying to motivate, supervise, instruct, tutor, and counsel my 35+ middle school students. Then I sit to grade essays, create lessons and handouts. All I ask is that I have the option to have a voice in my benefits and pay. I have seen how the government and district lies about their finances and mismanages their money and then complains because the teachers ask to not have their pay cut. Especially since the last time we got our pay cut they made promises that they broke over and over again. It's shameful. Our union is there to call the government bureaucracy out for their abuses. Like I said, I would finish out the year and leave. Who knows what they do next? I wouldn't want to stick around to find out.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan

      Goodbye Whiners like you will not be missed

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

      Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.. that is called work. If you dont like it get another job.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Normal Dad

      Hang in there. Most of us respect teachers and are thankful for your tireless devotion to our kids. Wisconsin will swing back, not soon enough but we'll get there.

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

      Hey...nobody says teachers don't work hard, but it is arrogant to insinuate that you work harder than the rest of us. Truth is, most teachers are good at what they do, but you get ridiculous protections, pensions and benefits that the rest of us don't, not to mention summers and breaks off. The "rights" you fight for a privileges most of us don't have.

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

      dan...no complaining, just the reality, and it's obvious you were probably one those punks that sat in class making sarcastic and rude remarks all the while not paying attention to what was really going on...just like now.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Is anyone watching out the rights of the taxpayers, I mean the unions are negociate salaries with the same people they paid for.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      You also work 9 months out of the year!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just_A_Teacher

      If you think its such a sweet job with great benefits, become a teacher.

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

      Most other states don't have collective bargaining rights for public workers, so make sure you don't go there. These do tend to be the states that are fiscally sound however.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick From AZ

      I wish I only worked from 7-4:30. I own a business and work from 7-7 without lunch or any breaks and I do not get a 3 month vacation every year in fact it has been 2 years since I have had as much as 3 days off. Maybe you should go out and get a job in the private sector and you will realize how good you have it as a teacher.

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

      I'm just a tire salesman. I've worked 30+ years for this company in every job here. Our salaried and hourly people come in unload trailerloads of tires at 6:00 A.M. at least twice a week, and then work until 6:00 P.M. every week day. We do that 12 months out of the year... not nine. We pay 1/3 of our healthcare coverage costs and make matched contributions to a 401K. We pitch in and try our best to keep the costs down for the company because..... if our company is not profitable, we have no job.

      I strongly resent the strong-armed, "my way or no way" tactics of the unions. If you don't want your jobs.... quit them. Companies and states have an absolute responsibility to control costs, and we, as individuals, have every right to choose for whom we work. I'd feel a lot better about the future of our country if those cry-babies were fired .... and their jobs were handed out to people who actually want a job!

      March 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ina

      Stop complaining, you are off during the summer.

      March 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      With the onset of the internet..... what kind of demand is there for teachers anyways?

      March 10, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • stejo

      gads – looks like a lot of the posters just want their kids to be as stupid as they are.

      March 10, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. todd

    America has won!! communism has lost!!!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • chloe's comments

      heifer dust - democracy has lost - it's not just breaking the unions, it's breaking down the middle class, it's strangling democracy - by the way, every totalitarian regime begins by breaking down the working people and the middle class - go study history.

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

      and you're an idiot.

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

      You mean communism has lost like in North Korea where they don't allow unions?

      March 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • EndangeredMiddleClassWakeUP

      What an absurd assessment. The middle class continues it's decline into low class in a two class system.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brian

    Yeah my dad was with the UAW for 25-years..... after he reitired he thought AOL was the only way to get on the internet.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. saver77

    Here is the real reasons WHY: All take a peek.


    March 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kandi Apple

      I'm sitting here all broke heartened because those dadgum Wisconsin Republicans used our own tactics against us. Here's how one gloating thought criminal described it.

      One way to think of this is as “reverse reconciliation.” The latter allowed Democrats to pass Obama’s health care bill, despite the Senate’s normal supermajority (60 vote) antifilibuster requirement, because it was deemed a bill that affected the budget. In Wisconsin, Republicans passed their bill despite the normal three-fifths supermajority quorum requirement because it was deemed a bill that didn’t affect the budget. Different rules, same basic trick. Sauce. Goose. Gander.

      Mmmm, goose with sauce, sounds yummy.

      March 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Robert 2


    March 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • hellmut

      Have you ever sat in a bus when a disoriented person blathers away and everybody is embarrassed and tries to look the other way? Well, today you are that person!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Zip in SC

    When are republicans going to wake up? Corporations are slowly turning this into a third world country. Do we all have to work for three dollars an hour for business to return jobs to this country? This was a great country wntil Regan and his voo-doo- economics got hold of it. Now we make nothing but money, and that only for Wall Street CEO's.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • chloe's comments

      The Republicans are the lapdogs of the rich and corporations - they are fully aware of what they are doing - creating a plutocracy (rule of the rich).

      March 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Reagan didnt pass NAFTA or the Pacific Rim free trade agreement etc.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      no, we expect you to take your 10-cent / year raise, the same way the rest of us did for the past 12 years.

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

      Evidently they seem to know how to bring down the deficit at the state-level.... It wasn't an easy thing for him to do, but it was famous..... If we are to cut-back the budget, seems like leaving out unions is a good place to start, or are teachers really that bad off? My brother is a liberal and he feels like they are glorified babysitters.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. chloe's comments

    Last night I watched and listened very carefully as one Democrat tried to challenge what the Republicans were doing because it violated Wisconsin state law; they barely allowed him to start speaking when they began talking over him and voting even while he was speaking.
    What I witnessed was democracy being silenced and strangled.
    This is the beginning of the death of democracy and the beginning of the rise of a plutocracy
    Soon we will truly be living in a plutocracy (rule by the rich) and America will have 2 classes - rich and poor.

    GOP = government of plutocracy

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

      I am afraid that's what happens in a minority political party. Watch c-span house/senate coverage from 2088-2010 and you will see Dems doing the same thing. It's called politics.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. badboy1


    March 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Andy

    Unions the people that brought you weekends and stoped employers from making you work 16 hours a day just to live on starvation wages

    March 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. NeptuneRex

    To bad that 14 senators were taking a taxpayer all expense paid vacation out of state while sipping diner wine, they could have been there to fight for the people. HEY, WI happen to see Obama there with you?
    "If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I'm in the White House, I'll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I'll walk with you on the picket line as president of the United States of America because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner,"-Obama
    Perhaps the problem is not the Repubs, its the Dems.

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

      Right, as if the Republicans would not have rammed the bill through the legislature the minute they got quorum, despite the fact that EVERY MAJOR POLL shows most people are opposed to the collective bargaining legislation. Democrats left the state because that was the only thing they could do, Republicans left them no choice when Walker refused to even negotiate like an adult.

      You can thank Republicans for destroying democracy.

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

      @brusard – again, same deal with Dems & health care. So what is the difference?

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

      Brussard – most people are against gay marriage too. Doesn't mean they are right and/or understand the issue.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lola

    Gosh, evangelicals, how will the rest of us live up to your family values when we don't have the resources with which to do so?

    March 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Quit having kids you cant afford or buying more than you need!

      March 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Not an evangelical, but if you want more resources perform more skilled labor, or work more often. Why do public employees deserve to be paid more money out of WI worker's pockets?

      March 10, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
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