Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker faces a recall vote on Tuesday because of a law he championed that severely curtails the power of public sector labor unions in the state. Polls close in Wisconsin at 8 p.m. central time.
Here are the details of the law and how it was passed:
* Walker was elected governor in 2010 along with Republican majorities in the state legislature. As soon as he took office, the governor said the state faced a $3.6 billion budget shortfall over two years and drastic measures were needed. He proposed a so-called budget repair bill that included the union measures.
The proposal sparked huge demonstrations in the capital Madison by unions and their supporters. Democratic members of the state Senate boycotted the legislature to avoid a vote on the proposal. Using a parliamentary maneuver, the bill was passed by Republicans, and Walker signed it into law on March 11, 2011.
Unions filed suit against the law and it was temporarily blocked by a state judge on May 26, 2011. The state Supreme Court ruled by a 4 to 3 vote on June 14, 2011 that the law could go into effect.
* Under the law, state and local government workers must increase contributions to 5.8 percent of the cost of their pensions, or 6.55 percent of salary if they are executives, and double contributions to their health insurance premiums to 12.6 percent. This resulted in an average cut in take-home pay of about 8 percent for a large swath of union members such as teachers.
* Collective bargaining is limited to the issue of wages, and wage increases are capped at the rate of inflation, with a voter referendum needed for larger increases.
* The law prohibits employer collection of union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. Union contracts are limited to one year, and collective bargaining units would have to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. The law requires 51 percent of the entire unit voting in favor rather than a majority of those voting, to approve certification. Unions particularly object to this provision because it is a hard barrier to clear.
The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission said they have received reports on recertification elections by 252 bargaining units so far, including 207 school districts, 39 municipalities and six state units. Unions have won 87 percent of those elections, losing 32 votes.
There is anecdotal evidence that union membership of public sector workers has declined in Wisconsin since the law went into effect, although unions have not released figures.
The percentage of employed people in Wisconsin who are members of unions fell to 13.3 percent in 2011 from 14.2 percent in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it is not clear how much of this drop is attributed to the new law, as the figures include private sector union membership as well as public unions.
Thwarted in their attempts to stop the law through state courts, unions filed suit in federal court against the law. On March 30, 2012 a federal judge blocked the provisions dealing with voluntary collection of union dues and recertification of unions annually. The Walker state government has appealed.
* Certain public sector employees, including local law enforcement and fire employees, were exempted from the collective bargaining changes. The law does not affect private sector union members.