(Washington Post) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won his drive to strip the state’s government workers of nearly all of their collective-bargaining rights Thursday, after a three-week standoff that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol. The new legislation 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 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 was in many ways an unlikely spot for such a political conflagration. The state was the first to grant collective-bargaining rights to its public employees, back in 1959. Only about half the states allow broad collective bargaining for their public employees.