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Democrats introduce budget amendment to restore collective bargaining rights

Wisconsin’s Senate Democrats used their final amendment to the 2011-13 budget bill to resume the months-long debate over collective bargaining rights for state workers.

Like the previous seven, this amendment failed, but it also allowed Democrats to debate collective bargaining rights on the Senate floor for the first time. The Senate first passed Gov. Scott Walker’s provision stripping bargaining rights from public workers in March when the 14 Democrats were in Illinois.

The amendment, Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee said, gave Republicans a chance to change their vote. Collective bargaining, she said, is “the issue the majority of people say you’ve overreached, and you’ve gone too far,” Taylor said.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, the longest-serving state legislator in the United States, recalled being in the Legislature when collective bargaining rights first passed in the 1950s.

“I remember very well the fact that it had bipartisan support at that time,” Risser said.

Risser lamented that Republican colleagues, who had supported union contracts in the past, sided with Walker on this issue.

“I can’t believe some of my good Republican colleagues, my good Republican friends here, have made the decision they have,” Risser said. “I just can’t understand it. In years past, they’ve supported contracts.

“What kind of magic has the governor pulled over you to get you as a unit?”

As Republicans declined to engage in the debate, Taylor took the last word.

“In this last-ditch effort, the last amendment of the day, as we end the debate, I encourage you, take a stand, stand up for workers,” Taylor said.

All Republicans voted against the amendment, and all Democrats supported it.

– James Briggs

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