State of the unions: Protests in overtime

William Thibodeau, center, protests in the capitol rotunda as a round-the-clock demonstration over the proposed Budget Repair bill continues in Madison, Wisconsin. Demonstrators have occupied the building’s interior for the past 13 days protesting Gov. Walker’s attempt to push through a bill that would restrict collective bargaining for most government workers in the state.

Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker said yesterday he would not back down in his confrontation with state public sector unions and repeated his threat to lay off workers if the standoff continues.

Walker urged the 14 Senate Democrats who fled Wisconsin to block a vote on his plan to curb public union collective bargaining rights to return, and said he hoped to avoid layoffs.

“If we do not get these changes and the Senate Democrats do not come back, we’re going to be forced to make up the savings in layoffs. And that to me is unacceptable,” Walker said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Tens of thousands of protesters marched against Walker’s plan in Wisconsin on Saturday and solidarity rallies for labor rights were held around the country. More protesters were expected at the state capital yesterday.

Opponents see Walker’s proposal as an attempt to break the union movement, and the Wisconsin fight has become a flashpoint in a growing national struggle over labor union power.

Wisconsin’s state Assembly approved the plan on Friday but Senate Democrats have fled to prevent a vote in that chamber, which also must pass the bill. Walker says the plan is vital to close a budget deficit of $137 million.

The Democrats fled the state because they feared they could be compelled to attend the Senate if they remained.

National trend?

Other states have drawn inspiration from Walker’s effort, with similar measures pending in Ohio, Tennessee, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa and Kansas.

In Indiana, Democratic lawmakers also have left the state to deny Republicans a vote on Republican-backed bills that restrict worker rights. Indiana’s Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, said he would not consider Democratic concerns about the bill until the lawmakers return.


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