Wisconsin Assembly Strips Collective Bargaining Rights and Gov. Scott Walker Promises to Sign Anti-Union Bill; Democrats Vow Legal Fight

Wisconsin GOP sidesteps AWOL senate Democrats for anti-union bill.

ByABC News
March 10, 2011, 2:12 PM

March 10, 2011 -- A political explosion hit Wisconsin today as the state legislature voted to strip most state workers of their right to bargain collectively.

The vote, which was delayed for much of the afternoon by protesters clogging the state capitol building, caps a weeks-long standoff between the state's minority Democrats and newly empowered Republican Gov. Scott Walker, working with majorities in the state legislature to use a budget bill to weaken state employee unions.

Democrats today asked a state court judge to impose a restraining order on the bill.

Walker told a news conference he'll sign the legislation "as quickly as I can legally."

Thousands of protesters converged outside the state capitol in Madison. Inside, protestors sang "solidarity forever" and about a dozen were dragged from near the assembly chamber. None were arrested.

The dramatic developments in Wisconsin came after senate Republicans, having lost patience with the 14 absent Democrats, pulled off a political end-run.

Senate Democrats left the state to prevent a vote on the budget bill.

But Republican state senators gathered late Wednesday in a hastily called conference to set aside language weakening employee unions from the budget bill. That allowed them to avoid a quorum -- required in any measures that spend money -- and ram the bill through in a matter of minutes.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the actions of Wisconsin Republicans an "absolute corruption of democracy."

As word of the vote spread Wednesday night, hundreds of protesters poured into the capital rotunda, shouting, "Shame, Shame."

By early morning, several dozen remained camped out in blankets and sleeping bags. Nearly everyone was caught off guard, including the 14 Democrats holed up across the border in Illinois.

Senate Democrats had fled the state for more than two weeks to block consideration of the budget bill as protesters set up camp in Madison. Walker, with his insistence that state employees be stripped of bargaining rights even after they agreed to concessions in pay and benefits, set off a national debate about unions and employees.