February 25th, 2011
By: Dana Chivvis
As a raucous week in the Midwest comes to an end, several state legislatures remain deadlocked over bills that many see as attempts to wrest power away from unions.
In the wee hours of this morning, Republicans in the State Assembly held a “flash” vote, passing a controversial bill eradicating collective bargaining for most public employees, before Democrats had a handle on what was happening.
Debate on the bill began in the Assembly on Tuesday morning and had lasted an exhausting 61 hours, as Democrats attempted to filibuster.
At 1 a.m. this morning, Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer opened and closed the vote in a matter of seconds. When it was over, only 13 of the 38 Democrats had managed to get in their votes.
Republican Assembly members stood up and left the chamber immediately following the surprise vote, as Democrats threw papers, shouted “shame!” at their counterparts and called them cowards, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.
With only two-thirds of the chamber voting, the legislation passed 51–17 and will now be sent to the Senate, whose 14 Democrats are still in hiding in Illinois. Their absence means the Senate cannot achieve a quorum to hold a vote.
After 15 hours of debate, Republicans in Iowa’s House Labor Committee passed a bill at 6 a.m. today that weakens collective bargaining rights for public employees. Though Democrats proposed more than 50 amendments to the bill, House Study Bill 117, it passed 9-5 along party lines.
The legislation would eliminate collective bargaining for health insurance and retirement plans, bar unions from having a role in decisions involving layoffs, give the governor and the Legislature veto power over decisions made by an arbitrator, lift restrictions on outsourcing and allow workers to become non-unionized “free agents,” according to the Iowa Independent.
The bill will be sent to the full chamber for a vote.
Workers in Ohio are rallying against Senate Bill 5, which would weaken collective bargaining rights by disallowing them for all negotiations except wage talks. It would also ban strikes and end binding arbitration.
Republican Gov. John Kasich and supporters of the legislation say it will help close the state’s $8 billion budget deficit.
With all but three House Democrats hiding out in Urbana, Ill., Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma postponed all activity in the chamber until Monday, according to The Indianapolis Star. The Democrats are protesting 11 proposed bills. Earlier this week, Republicans killed a controversial “right to work” bill, which would ban contracts that require non-union members to pay union fees.