Wisconsin Gov. Walker signs bill limiting public unions' rights

Chicago TribuneMarch 11, 2011 

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Friday signed into law a bill that sharply curbs collective bargaining for most public employees, handing organized labor a setback while giving his opponents a major political issue.

Walker signed the bill Friday morning, according to his office. A formal signing ceremony was scheduled for later Friday.

But the signing is just the latest step in a month of protests and demonstrations by unionists and their Democratic allies, a fight that turned Wisconsin into a national political battleground. All 14 Democrats in the state Senate fled Wisconsin for Illinois in a tactic designed to keep the measure from getting to the Senate floor, but the Republican-controlled Legislature passed the modified bill in recent days after finding a parliamentary way to get around the boycott.

Democrats have promised to sue to overturn the law. Petitions have also begun circulating to recall Republican legislators.

Walker on Friday morning canceled layoff warning notices issued during the standoff.

"The Legislature helped us save 1,500 middle-class jobs by moving forward this week with the budget repair. The state will now be able to realize $30 million in savings to balance the budget and allow 1,500 state employees to keep their jobs," Walker said in a prepared statement. "The reforms contained in this legislation, which require modest healthcare and pension contributions from all public employees, will help put Wisconsin on a path to fiscal sustainability."

Public employee unions have already said they were prepared to pay more money for health insurance and pension benefits, but they have balked at having their collective bargain rights restrained. The measure affects public employee unions except for police and fire.

Under the legislation, unions will not be able to bargain for health and pension benefits, will be limited in what they can seek in pay raises and have such other provisions as automatic dues payment modified.

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(Michael Muskal writes for the Los Angeles Times.)

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