Wisconsin GOP to strip collective bargaining rights in state budget; transit workers exempted

(Russ Feingold speaking at the ongoing "Walkerville" protests in Wisconsin against the Republican state budget)

With time running out before the recall elections and the legal battle over collective bargaining rights still bottled up in the courts, Wisconsin Republicans are finally ready to bite the bullet and re-pass the legislation that started this whole fight. They have called an "extraordinary session" to push through the state budget, and have announced they will include the measure stripping collective bargaining rights for most public employees in that budget:

The Legislature will put Gov. Scott Walker's limits on collective bargaining into the state budget Tuesday if the state Supreme Court hasn't ruled on the matter by then, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said Monday.

"If need be, we are going to have to pass collective bargaining again," Fitzgerald said at a Capitol news conference. "My caucus is more solid on that collective bargaining vote than they ever have been."

There was always a certain inevitability to this. It's something Wisconsin Republicans could have done at any time—even if the Wisconsin 14 had left the state again—as long as they just posted 24 hours notice. Thus far, they have demurred because they didn't want to take such an unpopular vote so close to the recall elections. But, in the end, this group of Wisconsin Republicans wants to bust some unions while they still can.

Notably, transit workers are exempt from the new measure. This is not because of public pressure against Wisconsin Republicans, to which they appear impervious, but rather because they finally realized that busting transit worker unions would cost the state big money:

Local government transit workers would retain their collective bargaining rights under the latest version of Gov. Scott Walker's union proposal to be voted on by the Legislature this week.

The first version passed in March but tied up in the courts covered transit workers, even though there was a concern that Wisconsin could lose about $60 million a year in federal transit aid if the workers' collective bargaining rights were removed.

They would join local police and firefighters, along with the State Patrol, in retaining their bargaining rights under the latest version the Assembly is taking up Tuesday as part of the state budget.

A lengthier version of the same AP story, which you can read here, provides more context. Basically, while this group of Wisconsin Republicans does indeed want to bust unions, they want some sweet, sweet federal money even more.

(See noise of rain's diary for more on the "extraordinary session" of the Wisconsin state legislature.)

Dailykos.com, Tues Jun 14 2011

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