Wisconsin Republicans press on with curbs on union rights

MADISON, Wisc. Thu Feb 17, 2011 1:37pm EST

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MADISON, Wisc. (Reuters) - Amid increasingly vocal protests, Wisconsin's Republican-controlled Legislature was poised on Thursday to vote on a controversial proposal to strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees.

Many schools throughout the state closed Thursday -- the second consecutive day in the capitol of Madison -- after the state's largest teachers' union called for members to come to Madison and join thousands of others protesting around and inside the state Capitol.

"This is not about protecting our pay and benefits. It is about our right to collectively bargain," teacher's union President Mary Bell said.

The Wisconsin State Senate, controlled 19-14 by Republicans, was expected to vote first on the plan after the budget committee approved Republican Gov. Scott Walker's bill with some minor changes in a party line vote late Wednesday. Republican legislative leaders said they expected no more changes.

Senate Joint Finance Committee co-chair Alberta Darling, said the choice facing Wisconsin was either to get the concessions from unions, or lay off public employees.

"It's not like we're choosing to do this. We are broke," she said.

The battle over public employee unions is gaining national attention, with liberal talk shows highlighting the issue and saying that this is a national fight for union rights.

Ed Schultz, a nationally-known liberal radio talk show host who also has a show on MSNBC cable television, planned to air his show from Madison on Thursday.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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Comments (4)
cgallaway wrote:
If the state is sooooo broke, then how about cutting down on the state congressional and executive pay, in addition to their sizeable staffs? This country is supposed to be about giving freedoms, rather than taking them away.

Feb 17, 2011 2:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
cgallaway wrote:
Of course, if this passes, I imagine there will be a nice lawsuit because Wisconsin Law would then be opposite to Federal Law. I also wonder if the plundering of rights can be considered treason?

Feb 17, 2011 2:58pm EST  --  Report as abuse
neopatetic wrote:
Public employee unions are bankrupting city after city, county after county, state after state. The people simply cannot afford ludicrously generous and extravagant pay, benefit and pension plans, such as those that have put Wisconsin so many billions in the hole. The time to come to our fiscal senses has finally arrived. The measure being voted upon in Wisconsin is not anti-union, it is pro-survival. There is no choice.

Feb 17, 2011 4:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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