Wisconsin Senate Votes to Strip Unions’ Bargaining Rights; Dems Preparing Return to State
In a surprise move, the Republican-led Wisconsin state Senate voted to approve a version of Governor Scott Walker’s spending plan stripped of its fiscal measures. What remained of the bill was the elimination of collective bargaining rights for the states’ public employee unions. This would seem to belie Gov. Walker’s claim that the bill was about balancing Wisconsin’s budget and give credence to those who believe it is nothing short of an attempt to eviscerate unions.
Thousands of angry protesters once again descended upon the Wisconsin state Capitol in response to last night’s vote. They shouted “SHAME! SHAME!” as they flooded the building. “I don’t feel like I’m in America any more. It’s like I’m watching this on a news network about some foreign country,” protester Andy Jones told ABC 2 in Green Bay.
In what many Democrats and other union supporters are calling a dirty trick, Senate Republicans removed the fiscal measures from the bill that would have required a 20-member quorum for a vote. The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled state Assembly, which has already approved a different version of it.
The bill aims to eliminate nearly all collective bargaining rights for public workers, prevent unions from requiring members to pay dues, and stop unions from collecting dues via pay deductions. Public union employees would also have to pay more for health care and pensions, a concession already agreed to by them. The unions say the changes will be “devastating.”
The people of Wisconsin don’t seem to appreciate the governor’s tough tactics, with 57% of likely voters in a Rasmussen poll last week disapproving of the job he’s doing. Only 43% approve.
Governor Walker, who is trying to close a $137 million budget gap, hailed the move, saying it will help local governments, improve the state’s business climate and create jobs. “I applaud the legislature’s action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government.”
The move has infuriated the pro-union side, with Democrats promising a drive to recall the Republicans responsible. Now that the vote has taken place without them, the 14 Democratic state Senators who fled the state in an unsuccessful attempt to stymie the GOP bill are making plans to return to Wisconsin. The Washington Post reports that two Democrats may have already returned.
“By stripping out the fiscal items and leaving only the elimination of collective bargaining, the governor has exposed himself as a fraud,” Democratic state Senator Robert Jauch told the Washington Post last night. “Tonight he has guaranteed that the people of the state of Wisconsin are going to stay engaged until this government changes.”
“We now put our total focus on recalling the eligible Republicans who voted for this bill. And we also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall,” said Mike Tate, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
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