March 10 (Reuters) - Wisconsin’s state Assembly on Thursday approved restrictions on collective bargaining rights of state and local government unions, which have become a test of the national political and economic clout of the U.S. labor movement. [ID:nN10158741]
Public employee unions have the right to collectively bargain in about 30 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
In some states in the South and West, public employees do not have the right to collectively bargain, and in Virginia and Texas it is illegal to enter into a formal bargaining relationship with the public sector.
Here are nine states where curbs on union power are under consideration.
* WISCONSIN: After a bitter three-week battle that saw Senate Democrats flee the state to prevent a quorum and block a vote, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker won a key part of his proposal to curb union rights. Republicans split off the legislation’s spending provisions and voted only on the union bargaining limits — a strategy that did not require Democrats show up to create a quorum. The bill was approved by the Republican-controlled State Assembly.
The new legislation includes the most controversial sections of the union proposal, which limits public sector union bargaining to wages, and only up to the rate of inflation. The state would no longer collect union dues from paychecks, and members must vote each year to stay in the union. It requires public workers to pay more for health insurance and pension plans. Local police, fire and state patrol would be exempted from the changes.
* OHIO: Ohio’s bill goes farther than Wisconsin’s, prohibiting collective bargaining for 42,000 state workers plus 19,500 college system workers. For local governments, bargaining with unions representing some 300,000 workers including police, firefighters, and public school teachers, the bill takes healthcare and some other benefits out of the negotiating process. It denies them the right to strike.
The bill passed the Senate March 1. The Ohio House of Representatives will hold at least one more week of hearings on the bill, according to the spokesman for Republican speaker William G. Batchelder. A date for a vote has not been set. Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich has said he supports the measure.
* IDAHO: The Idaho state legislature has approved a bill to limit collective bargaining by public school teachers. The measure restricts collective bargaining to salaries and benefits, removing from negotiations such provisions as class sizes, teacher workload and promotions. Republican Governor Bruce Otter was expected to sign it into law quickly.
* IOWA: The state House of Representatives is debating a bill curbing collective bargaining rights for public workers that was passed by the labor committee. The bill would exclude health insurance from the scope of collective bargaining, along with other changes. Democrats who control the Senate said they do not intend to bring the bill up for debate.
* MICHIGAN: Both chambers of the Michigan legislature have approved measures to give the state emergency powers to break union contracts to revive failing schools and cities. There are slight differences between the bills passed by the two chambers which must be reconciled. New Republican Governor Rick Snyder has said he supports the measure.
* INDIANA: Republican state lawmakers are pushing several measures that curb organized labor influence. The state Senate passed a bill that will narrow the scope of public school teachers’ collective bargaining rights. The measure still needs to be approved by the state House, but House Democrats have left the state to deny votes on bills they say restrict workers’ rights. One bill would create a state-wide school voucher system.
* NEW HAMPSHIRE: A right-to-work bill that refers only to public sector workers prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join labor unions. It also says that no public employee union is required to represent employees who elect not to join or pay dues. It passed the House and next goes to the Senate. Both legislative bodies have Republican majorities, but Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, has said he does not support the bill.
* KANSAS: The Kansas House has passed a bill that would outlaw employee payroll deductions for union dues and political action committees.
* TENNESSEE: A Republican-backed state bill would end teachers’ rights to negotiate their working conditions with boards of education through collective bargaining. The bill has passed through the Senate Education Committee.
* OTHER STATES: Limits on public worker collective bargaining have been introduced in several other states as of last week, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. These include Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington, Alaska and Arizona.
Writing by Mary Wisniewski, with reporting by Tim Ghianni, Andrew Stern, Kay Henderson, Kevin Murphy, Laura Zuckerman, Lauren Keiper and Susan Guyett; Editing by Jackie Frank, John Whitesides and Greg McCune