Wisconsin Assembly Passes Bill To Curb Unions

UPDATED 02/25/11 4:30 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (CBS) — Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly moved swiftly and passed a budget bill by Gov. Scott Walker, which would strip collective bargaining rights for most state employees.

The Republican-led Assembly passed the bill after hours of debate. Earlier this week, the Assembly voted to cut off three days of debate on the measure, even though 15 Democrats were still waiting to speak.

The vote itself Thursday night was over so fast that only 13 of 38 Democrats voted in time, CBS News reported. When the vote was over, some of the thousands of protesters gathered outside the Capitol gave derisive applause.

The bill must still pass the state Senate, which is also controlled by the GOP. But Republicans need at least one Democrat for the bill to pass, and 14 Senate democrats have left the state to stall the vote. Many are hiding out in Chicago.

Wisconsin state Sen. Jon Erpenbach is one of them. He’d prefer to go home, he told CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez. But Erpenbach, who has now stayed in six hotels in eight days, says despite Friday’s budget vote, the radical tactics of Democrats are working.

Despite Gov. Walker’s order for Democratic senators to come home, Erpenbach says he won’t do so until the governor compromises — “until he takes a serious look at the offer on the table from public employees giving him every penny he wants in exchange for not going after workers’ rights in the state of Wisconsin.”

On Thursday, Wisconsin state patrol officers were sent to the senators’ houses, in hopes of compelling them to come back and vote. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told The Associated Press that police cannot arrest the absent members, but he hoped the presence of a police officer at their door would be enough to motivate them to come back.

Walker’s plan calls for all collective bargaining rights to be removed for state employees effective July 1, except with regard to wages. But any salary increase could not be higher than the consumer price index unless voters approve otherwise.

Walker says the move is needed to solve a nine-figure budget deficit. But critics claim the budget deficit concerns are overstated, and the real motivation is to bust state employee unions.

U.S. Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) is one such critic.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports

“This was not a question about budget, or a question about cutting back in benefits. It was a question about destroying a union,” Durbin said, “and I think that we stand with our friends in labor, that the rights to collectively bargain have been fought for and won across America, and they are worth fighting for in Wisconsin and Illinois.”

Durbin pictures the Wisconsin legislation as an effort to trample hard-won bargaining rights, and says he stands behind the Senate Democrats.

Walker took heat from opponents earlier this week, when Ian Murphy,, a blogger for the left-leaning Web site “Buffalo Beast,” posed as Koch Industries billionaire and Walker backer David Koch and called Walker up.

In a 20-minute conversation, Walker openly discussed plans to issue layoff notices if his budget bill is not passed soon, and talked about ideas to punish the absent Senate Democrats, whom Murphy-as-Koch referred to as “Democrat bastards.”

Also, CBS News’ Dean Reynolds reports, an Indiana deputy attorney general got in trouble Wednesday for suggesting in a tweet that “live ammunition” should be used against protesters in Madison.

The deputy attorney general, Jeffrey Cox, said he was being satirical, but he was fired over the incident.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Jim

    Get em Walker! When you steal, steal, steal and then you get caught with your hands in the cookie car you can’t say let’s compromise now. Too little, too late unions! The taxpayers have spoken!

  • Ali Montag

    Taxpayers haven’t spoken, republican politicians have spoken. Years of building up an organization who’s trickle effect helps ALL American workers (unionized or not) have been shattered. This is another initiative from the Republican party to continue to developed a tiered nation. It’s really appalling. It’s unfortunate that our president who’s election was based on the votes of young democrats and the working class wasn’t there as support and was rather focused on his re-election. Personally, I having a hard time with my own sense of “American pride” between this and the recent pulling of funds from Planned Parenthood.

  • Darrell

    Union busting is all it is. Been going on for years. Republicans protect the wealthy any way they can because they are part of them. A house divided cannot stand. p.s., what did YOU give up to help the State?

  • swizzle

    People like Jim amaze me. Jims too stupid to actually look at the issue and only parrots what Faux News tells him to say, it’s sad that so many Americans are so stupid.
    Hopefully this bill will fail.
    Libya has thier dictator and Wisconsin now has thiers.
    Why do Republicans love Dictators so much?

  • southside

    Reminds me of the Healthcare cramdown in the US Congress. Who was the dictator then?

  • Frank

    Nobody asked me if I wanted a 66% income tax increase in Illinois. The Democratic party here sure crammed that down my throat. And our state is still defect spending, and just borrowing money to continue with their wasteful spending habits. At least the Republicans are trying to stop cycle of spending in Wisconsin. Nobody said it wouldn’t be painful. But you can’t just keep spending money you don’t have.

  • Michael Hansen

    As Frank in the above post states, few of us in the Illinois producing class wanted a 66% income tax hike. But elections have consequences and me, Frank and other like-minded people will just have to do a better job next election cycle. It would have be a grave dereliction of duty to the citizens for the Republicans to cut-and-run – that’s not the American system of democracy! It is however, cowardice and the disenfrachisement of the citizens who made their choice at the ballot box. Even though I am firmly against most everything Quinn and the democrats stand for they won the election and I respect (but disagree with) the peoples’ choice. In contrast, the democrat party has shown in technicolor its utter contempt for the rule of law in Madison, Indianapolis, and Washington DC. The left loves to belch about having every vote count – well, the votes were counted in November 2010 and Walker and the Republicans won by a convincing margin. Now by violating their sworn oath of office the democrats are attempting to nullify the 1,128,887 votes cast for Walker in his 52-46% win over Doyle. The fact is that public sector unions should NEVER have been allowed in the first place – and no less than FDR and George Meaney expressed that opinion. The reason is simple – in a private sector business management is not put to a vote by the labor force. The public sector is different – through massive funding of union friendly candidates the public sector unions have corrupted the American system of government. In too many cases elected officials DIRECTLY making compensation and benefits decision in the public sector unions were (or are) union members! Oh, how the left likes to harp about Cheney’s supposed conflict of interest with his former employer, Haliburton – a company with sales of $18B/year and the subject of INTENSE oversight scruitiny. In comparison public sector unions have put “We the People” in a $5T (yes, that’s TRILLION or $5,000,000,000) unfunded public sector union pension hole (source: Economist 1/6/2011) – mostly done with a nod-and-a-wink by the toadies they got elected to feather their own nests at the expense of the taxpayers! AND YET THEY HAVE THE UNMITIGATED GALL TO COMPLAIN!!!. To those cowards who are in hiding and those teachers who lied about being sick – I have a new slogan for your movement “SHIRKERS OF THE WOLRD UNITE!)

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