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Walker warns cities Burke will restore unions (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MIDDLETON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Gov. Scott Walker warned city officials Friday that Democrat Mary Burke would tie their hands financially by restoring public-sector collective bargaining.

Walker spoke Friday in Middleton during the annual conference of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, drawing applause when he said his signature law stripping most public workers of their union rights put taxpayers and city leaders back in charge.

Burke clearly wants to restore collective bargaining for public workers, he added. That would mean city leaders’ hands would be tied again and they’d have a tough time make reasonable decisions to control spending and expenses such as overtime.

“That will put you back in the box again,” he said.

Burke supports restoring collective bargaining for public workers and automatic union due withdrawals but doesn’t want to undo other parts of the law, including the provisions requiring workers to pay more for pension and health care. Her campaign spokeswoman didn’t immediately return an email message seeking comment on Walker’s remarks.

Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law in 2011 stripping most public workers of their union rights, prohibiting collective bargaining on anything beyond raises tied to inflation, eliminating automatic union dues deductions from their paychecks and requiring them to contribute more to their health insurance and pensions.

Walker justified the law by saying it would give municipal officials more financial flexibility. Democrats saw the measure as an attempt to neuter organized labor, one of their key constituencies. Tens of thousands of people protested over the proposal for three weeks straight at the state Capitol but Republicans passed the measure anyway. Angry Democrats and their allies forced Walker into a recall election in 2012, but the governor easily defeated challenger Tom Barrett to keep his job.

A Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday shows Walker and Burke are in a dead heat as they approach the Nov. 4 election. They were scheduled to meet for their second and final debate Friday evening.

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