Wisconsin, Other State Legislatures Consider Eliminating Collective Bargaining

BY Lauren Knapp  February 18, 2011 at 11:16 AM EDT

Updated 7:00 PM ET| Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker held a press conference late Friday evening addressing the ongoing protests over a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining for Wisconsin state workers.

Watch his statement below:
Walker responds to questions from the press:

Posted Noon ET| Republican state senators in Wisconsin tried for a second day Friday to vote on a bill that would take collective bargaining rights from public workers.

The fight over Wisconsin state workers’ right to collective bargaining came to a dramatic halt on Thursday when fourteen democratic state senators left the state to avoid voting on the controversial bill. The state senate issued a “Call of the House,” which allows them to send out state troopers to retrieve the missing senators.

(For complete coverage of the events in Wisconsin, including local public media and a slide show of the protests, read more here).

The bill, proposed by newly elected Republican Governor Scott Walker, would strip government workers of their right to collective bargaining and require that workers pay for half the cost of their pensions and 12.6% of their health coverage.

Republicans hold a majority in the 33-member senate with 19 seats, but need at least one Democrat to be present to conduct business, and 17 votes to pass the measure.

Gov. Walker appealed to the 14 missing Democrats to return and vote on CBS’ “The Early Show” saying, “The state senators who are hiding out down in Illinois should show up for work, have their say, have their vote, add their amendments, but in the end, we’ve got a $3.6 billion budget deficit we’ve got to balance.”

The at-large state senators have said they will not return to Wisconsin until Saturday at the earliest in hopes of stalling the vote even further.

Meanwhile, similar bills and protests are fomenting in state legislatures around the nation.

In Ohio, thousands of public employees protested at the state capitol over a bill that would replace negotiated salary schedules with merit raises in addition to stripping unions of collective bargaining powers. A small number of Tea Party activists were also present to demonstrate support for the bill.

Protesters enthusiastically greeted former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland when he returned to the capitol for the first time since current Republican Governor John Kasich was inaugurated. Ohio public media conglomerate, Ideastream, reported that he returned to support union rights.

In Indiana, the debate over education reforms became personal, when Republican Governor Mitch Daniels responded to a protester’s sign insinuating that he ‘hates’ teachers earlier this month. Like in Wisconsin and Ohio, the proposed reforms would significantly reduce teachers’ right to collective bargaining.

The Tennessee state senate is ready to take up legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining for educators in that state.