Walker Signs Bill Curbing Unions; Rescinds Warning of Firings

Friday, 11 Mar 2011 12:40 PM

March 11 (Bloomberg) -- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law a measure curbing most collective-bargaining rights for public employees.

Walker, 43, a first-term Republican, acted today less than 24 hours after the state Assembly gave final approval, capping three weeks of protests at the Capitol. He also rescinded a warning to unions that he would fire 1,500 state workers, according to a news release. The governor said the bill’s passage ended the need to cut the workforce.

The measure, which exempts police and firefighters, requires annual recertification votes for union representation and makes the payment of dues voluntary. State workers will contribute 5.8 percent of their salary toward pensions and pay 12.6 percent of their health-insurance costs.

“We heard from the public they wanted it passed and moved forward and get refocused on creating jobs,” Walker said today on CNBC. “It protects middle-class jobs and protects middle- class taxpayers, and ultimately makes the government work better.”

Democrats and organized labor called the bill an attack on workers. Groups of protesters marched around the Capitol and chanted inside hours before Walker was to hold a formal bill- signing in his office this afternoon.

Almost two-thirds of Americans said public employees should have the right to bargain collectively for wages, a Bloomberg National Poll said this week. Americans reject Republican efforts to scale back benefits for government workers, 49 percent to 46 percent, the poll said.

The March 4-7 telephone survey of 1,001 U.S. adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

When the measure passed the Assembly yesterday 53-42, the spectators’ gallery erupted with people shaking their fists and chanting, “Shame, shame, shame.”

Demonstrations continued today inside and outside the Capitol.

Editors: Stephen Merelman, Mark Schoifet.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Jones in Madison at tjones58@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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