Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signs collective bargaining bill, bypasses Senate Democrats

Demonstrators at the Capitol building in Madison are protesting Republican Gov. Scott Walker's legislation to cut public employees' benefits and eliminate most of their collective bargaining rights.
Compiled by Ian Saleh
Washington Post Staff
Friday, March 11, 2011; 1:48 PM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill to strip public workers of most of their collective bargaining rights on Friday. As Karen Tumutly reported:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has won his drive to strip the state's government workers of nearly all of their collective-bargaining rights, prevailing after a three-week standoff that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol and transfixed the political world.

The new legislation, which Walker signed into law Friday, represents a major setback for organized labor, but the political battle over public employees and their rights to bargain is likely to continue - not only in Madison.

The state Assembly passed Walker's proposal Thursday, a day after Republican senators outmaneuvered the 14 Democratic senators who had fled Wisconsin to deny a quorum needed for passing a budget measure. By stripping the bill of its spending language, they were able to pass it with only Republicans present.

Despite losing the battle in Wisconsin, union leaders said it would have repercussions across the country. "It's not over. This may be a battle that has been won by the governor, but we are in this for the long haul," said Lee A. Saunders, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is the nation's largest government-worker union.

Wisconsin's union showdown will affect several other states who face large bugdet gaps. As Chris Cillizza explained:

In the world of Washington politics, governors races are often overshadowed by the fight for control of the House and Senate. But the last three weeks in Wisconsin have proven -- yet again -- that what goes on in the states has reverberations in politics across the country.

And, it's not just Wisconsin where newly elected governors are at the center of the budget fights and broader economic arguments that are impacting the country.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) is facing down the Nutmeg State's budget gap and polling that suggests his proposed solutions is something short of popular. Ditto New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who has laid out a series of cuts designed to close a $10 billion budget gap.

Gwendolyn Bradley gave her opinion of the bill and its impact on public employees:

As everyone knows by now, conservative legislators in the Midwest are pushing legislation attacking the collective bargaining rights of a wide swath of public employees. Among them are faculty members and other academic employees at public institutions. Professors and librarians may not immediately spring to mind when we think about unions, but in fact academic unions--including many unionized chapters of the American Association of University Professors, where I work--play an important and beneficial role in higher education. Here's how.

Academic unions are the latest in a long line of structures--from medieval collegia to modern faculty senates, with which unions coexist--designed to defend against threats to censor curricula, violate institutional autonomy, and intimidate scholars.

Increasingly, such threats come from corporations. They push for courses tailored to their needs (instead of training employees themselves). They fund research, but only on marketable topics with sales-friendly results. Academia is also threatened by a corporate mindset--evidenced by the sky-high salaries of top administrators; the decreasing proportion of full-time, tenure-track faculty; and an increasing tendency to see higher education as a business instead of a public good to which citizens are entitled. The effect is to transfer the cost of education from society at large to individual students--witness the ever-rising amount of debt under which students labor. At the same time, for-profit colleges and universities are growing, fed by federal funds.

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