Dems Missing From Wis. Capitol Ahead Of Union Vote

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A group of Wisconsin lawmakers blocked passage of a sweeping anti-union bill Thursday by ignoring orders to attend a vote and instead left the state to force Republicans to negotiate over the proposal.

As ever-growing throngs of protesters filled the Capitol for a third day, the 14 Democrats disappeared from the Capitol. They were not in their offices, and aides said they did not know where any of them had gone.

Hours later, one of them told The Associated Press that the group had left Wisconsin.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach said Democrats fled to slow down consideration of the bill in the hopes that Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers would discuss changes.

“The plan is to try and slow this down because it’s an extreme piece of legislation that’s tearing this state apart,” Erpenbach told the AP in a telephone interview.

He refused to say where he was. Other Democratic lawmakers sent messages over Twitter and issued written statements, but did not say where they were.

The Democrats failed to show up when the Senate started its business around midday Thursday, and the sergeant at arms began looking for them. If he’s unable to find them, he’s authorized to seek help, including potentially contacting police.

Democratic Minority Leader Mark Miller released a statement on behalf of all Democrats urging Walker and Republicans to listen to opponents of the measure and seek a compromise. His statement did not address where Democrats were or when they planned to return.

“Today they checked out, and I’m not sure where they’re at,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said. “This is the ultimate shutdown, what we’re seeing today.”

Senate rules and the state constitution say absent members can be compelled to appear, but it does not say how.

Republicans hold a 19-14 majority, but they need at least one Democrat to be present before taking a vote on the bill.

As Republicans tried to begin Senate business Thursday, observers in the gallery screamed “Freedom! Democracy! Unions!” Opponents cheered when a legislative leader announced that there were not enough senators present to proceed.

The bill came to the Senate after the Legislature’s budget committee endorsed it just before midnight Wednesday. Once passed by the Senate, the Assembly would take it up. Democrats in that chamber were present Thursday and they were cheered and high-fived by protesters as they left for closed-door caucus meetings.

Walker and Republican leaders have said they have the votes to pass the plan. Walker planned a news conference for Thursday afternoon.

Thousands of protesters clogged the hallway outside the Senate chamber beating on drums, holding signs deriding Walker and pleading for lawmakers to kill the bill as the expected vote neared. Protesters also demonstrated outside the homes of some lawmakers.

Hundreds of teachers called in sick, forcing a number of school districts to cancel classes. Madison schools, the state’s second-largest district with 24,000 students, closed for a second day as teachers poured into the Capitol.

Hundreds more people, many of them students from the nearby University of Wisconsin, slept in the rotunda for a second night.

“We are all willing to come to the table, we’ve have all been willing from day one,” said Madison teacher Rita Miller. “But you can’t take A, B, C, D and everything we’ve worked for in one fell swoop.”

The proposal marks a dramatic shift for Wisconsin, which passed a comprehensive collective bargaining law in 1959 and was the birthplace of the national union representing all non-federal public employees.

“The story around the world is the rush to democracy,” said Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch of Poplar during the committee debate on the measure Wednesday night. “The story in Wisconsin is the end of the democratic process.”

In addition to eliminating collective bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage — increases Walker calls “modest” compared with those in the private sector.

Republican leaders said they expected Wisconsin residents would be pleased with the savings the bill would achieve — $30 million by July 1 and $300 million over the next two years to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

“I think the taxpayers will support this idea,” Fitzgerald said.

Wisconsin has long been a bastion for workers’ rights. It was the first state to grant collective bargaining rights to public employees more than a half-century ago. And the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was founded in 1936 in Madison.

But when voters elected Walker, an outspoken conservative, along with GOP majorities in both legislative chambers, it set the stage for a dramatic reversal of the state’s labor history.

Under Walker’s plan, state employees’ share of pension and health care costs would go up by an average of 8 percent.

Unions still could represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized.

In exchange for bearing more costs and losing bargaining leverage, public employees were promised no furloughs or layoffs. Walker has threatened to order layoffs of up to 6,000 state workers if the measure does not pass.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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  • Ginger Shepla

    I hope the Wisconsin law makers stand strong and vote this through. I hope the teachers that choose not to do their jobs and instead go protest either lose their jobs or at least realize they are replaceable just like anyone else is. The Wisconsin government is very brave for taking this on and I wish them well and hope this passes.

    • Disgusted with Democrats

      I couldn’t agree with you more! If I would to call in sick to my job to go protest, I would lose my job. And how do Democrats across the state feel? These were elected officials, and they chose to flee rather than do their jobs! The fact that they didn’t show is just sickening to me! What a thing to teach the young!

      • helper

        Ahh, you two are idiots. This is about education you morons. But obviously neither of you have a degree past college. The Wi gov. doesn’t even have a college degree.

        Its just the dumming down of America brought to you by republicans!

      • DD

        How is this about education….yes, lets teach our children to not show up when they don’t like how something is. You are stupid

      • ME

        Its teachers like this that are doing a disservice to the children in America. They’re more concerned about protecting their cushy pensions, but hey it’s all about the kids right? The same kids who are going a second day without classes. It goes to show yet again what babies Democrats are. At least they can pass this bill legally, not forcing it though via reconciliation. Before you ask, I have college degree and the fact that you need to deride people because they don’t shows how truly pathetic you really are.

      • Tyler

        How many of the 6,000 workers (which may eventually be laid off) do you think are protesting today?

        Let’s say it doesn’t pass. Do you think those now 6,000 jobless workers would rather pay more for insurance, etc. or be jobless?

        @helper, you don’t need a PhD (“past college”) to figure this situation out.

    • T-Bone

      This is exactly what the ruling class wants. The average American is now complaining that teachers and public sector employees are “wealthy”, and are the cause of all the harm done to our economy. They’ll distract you anyway they can..just don’t look behind the curtain….just don’t look behind the curtain as they turn us against ourselves and they concentrate the money more and more…..think about it they have you believing teachers are wealthy? God help us all.

      • dphilips

        T-Bone Very well said!!

      • gloria

        Right on.

    • Mike

      Why would anyone support legislation that effectively eliminates a major segment of the middle class? Union jobs always provided good wages and set the standard. Eliminating collective collective bargaining will have a ripple effect across the private sector. Wages will fall. You are in denial if you do understand, this is a race to the bottom. Wake up!

    • David

      II’m with you!!!! They are upset that they may have to fund their own retirement just like I do. Fund their own health care just like I do. I can hardly pay my own way, I dont want to pay theirs anymore…..

  • DaveM

    AFSCME stole from my paycheck for 25 years (under the DFL’s fair share law) and got me nothing but 1% raises or less. My pay was frozen for three years. I hope the AFSCME fat cats all lose their jobs and are not eligible for unemployment. AFSCME is nothing but a leech, promoting hate between workers and management.

    • Papa K

      I love it … if you want to continue to mess with the little people they will fight back. It’s about time we got our voices heard.

      All this for $30M … I guess this will be the LAST republican governor and probably the last republican controlled House and Senate for quite awhile.

      Go BLUE …

      • Wow

        are you nuts??? How does one fight back by not showing up? I hope every Democrat realizes just how stupid they look now!!!!

      • Ignorance must be bliss

        Did you not hear what happened in Egypt? Might want to look into that before you post comments like that.

    • Ralph

      Dave, you should have joined and then you would have had a equall complaint. Who ever was on the team doing your contract must of thought it was the best they could do at the time.

    • Mike

      DaveM, Not supporting your union makes you a leech and bad mouthing the people who represented your wages, benefits and helped make it possible to have been employeed for 25 years at the same company, makes you the hater.

    • Daniel Chenkin

      OK and you believe you would do better if you were not in a union. I hate the leadership of my union UFCW they just as corrupt and bought off as AFSCME, but I would be far worse off if my job was non-union. As for promoting “hate” I have never heard the a union leader use the racist, sexist rhetoric that the Tea Party pushes. Conflict between workers and bosses is driven by the fight between what workers need to have a decent life and the bosses desire to maximize profits. In the case of the public sector its a fight between public sector employees versus elected officials, who get huge government payouts for minimal work, and the wealthiest 2% who receive massive tax breaks and corporate welfare from the politicians they finance into office. These massive tax breaks and subsidizes to major oil corporations, almost $50 billion annually not counting war profiteering are the cause of the budget crisis.

  • Unions Sold Out America

    The unions sold out America when they wanted to unionize illegal workers, time to hit the road UNIONS


    “Unions function as labor cartels. A labor cartel restricts the number of workers in a company or industry to drive up the remaining workers’ wages….. Companies pass on those higher wages to consumers through higher prices, and often they also earn lower profits. Economic research finds that unions benefit their members but hurt consumers generally, and especially workers who are denied job opportunities.Studies typically find that unionized companies earn profits between 10 percent and 15 percent lower than those of comparable non-union firms.”

    • Anonymous

      Most research done since 1934 will show that 67% of those such as WAAAAAA who like to pretend they have facts based on some sort of pretend qualified study are not helping anybody in any degree at all.

      • Ryan

        Isnt ironic when you think about it. Here you have the crowd (unions) in one breath screaming “tax the wealthy!” and “we are doing this for the kids”…….yet they ditched their classrooms today NOT because the government was cutting PUBLIC EDUCATION but it was cutting the TEACHERS BENEFITS! Two very different things.

        The teachers left the kids all alone when their OWN PERSONAL benefits were being attacked for the sake of improving public education. So for all the rhetoric you hear from unions about the wealthy/republicans being “selfish”…..what exactly is not selfish about ditching the kids so that you can make sure you get your own personal benefits stay in tact. Especially since these benefits are being paid by the PARENTS of these kids you so deeply “care” about…..

        Hypocrites – they should be ashamed

      • OneBigAssMistakeAmerica

        You really have no clue! Go back to praying to your Obama statue

  • Unions and Detroit

    The Unions did a great job in Detroit, they sold out the workers there now they have 18% unemployment. Great job!!

    • Milkman

      Being more accurate–Before the collapse, Ford foresaw the future and converted to producing smaller more efficient cars. GM sought shorter term profits and continued to produce big gas guzzlers. Ford suffered short term losses. GM tanked. Unions seem to have had little to do with corporate decisions.

    • max

      Mark, you’re repeating the same things on each article about the situation in WI and not saying anything to back up your assertions. Maybe try a little harder?

      • Ryan

        Max – this is all many liberals have to offer in these debates since many of them have done very little research about how unions have become perversions of their former selves. If you’re opinion is never challenged it must be correct, right?

      • @MAx ?

        You can check it out buy going to MI unemployment site, it’s all there. I don’t need to try harder I work for myself not a blood sucking Union

      • max

        Ryan, I wasn’t making any argument about the situation in my first comment. There are people making stupid arguments from both sides of the aisle. I would never argue that unions are all run by perfectly ethical people, but I do strongly believe that the middle class is still strengthened by unions. Mark, it’s unfair to hold unions fully accountable for what happened in Detroit. Further, can you draw any parallels between the two situations?


    Judging by these remarks it’s time for the Unions to leave town

  • Matt

    I love how when a liberal doesn’t get their way they just don’t show up for work. Teachers not teaching, lawmakers not voting. It’s always me me me…

    • Jamus

      Do you ever wonder why republicans are always whining…,me me me.

      My crazy religious beliefs, my hillbilly attitude towards guns, my pure ignorance due to lack of education beyond high school. me me me

      But then again what do you expect from people who believe everything they hearon Fox news.

      • Ryan

        I laugh at this constant bashing of the governor not having a college degree. This country along with many states have elected plenty of officials who have had masters degrees and they have destroyed everything they’ve touched.

        A degree doesnt equal intelligence no matter how hard you like to convince yourself of it. And using Fox News as an answer to all things republican justifies my point that an education doesnt always equal intelligence.


    These coward big baby democrats are not Americans…I don’t what they are but they want to tear us apart for their own greed…I’d fire everyone of these teachers for not showing up for work and not feeding or teaching…just like Reagan did for the air controllers.

  • nancy

    I think both sides are acting like children. 1= I have the power I am going to do what I want and I don’t care about anyone else or what they thinks. (ever play king of the hill as a child) 2= I don’t want to play king of the hill so I am going to go and not come back. Give me a break and us idiots for these children in. Now grown ups try to work together at least they do at my workplace and its not me me me

    • nancy

      Typing to fast was trying to say us idiots voted for these children.

  • Manly

    Its about standing up for your rights. The only cowards are the republicans!

    I can tell most of the republicans posting here are stay at home moms watching too much Fox news and drinking cheap wine.


    • Ginger Shepla

      Sorry, I’m at my non union job paying taxes. I also have to pay in for my retirement medical insurance. It’s very exspensive, but when you’re in the private sector you can’t just not show up to work and storm the govenors office or you’ll lose you’re job. Who would pay for all of the public workers then?

    • Not a stay at home mom

      Did you read this before you posted it? You sound like quite the moron!

      • Flag me!

        HAHA! $10 says he flagged my prior reply as it “hurt his poor little feelings”

        It was a good one too!

  • Derek

    While I don’t think that the right thing for opponents of the bill to do is hide, I think that this is bill is stupid. It’s taking away the union’s rights to negotiate. That means all of those people that everyone is insulting are going to get screwed and be in even worse shape then they are now. Going in and right away destroying something that has been able to provide at least a little protection to the workers is someone not caring anything about the little people that do jobs that keep EVERYTHING running.

  • Lexy

    I wish this would happen in Minnesota. What a great day for my rights as a private sector employee. I should not have to fund what ever pension a government worker gets due the Union running rip shot over my rights to keep what I earn and not just fund these pensions with ou regard to the reality of where the money will come from….my pocket.

  • Party of Tea

    LOL! How many posts do us “righties” get here how we are crying babies when we don’t get our way…..and all we want is big business….and to defend millionaires…..Now…only a select FEW True “Lefties” (the ones with WELLSTONE tattooed on their left butt cheek) are CRAZY enough to DEFEND the actions of these COWARDS in WI!.
    I LOVE how the unions protest when it’s THEN being affected! What about us!!! And OUR taxes being raised to support YOUR MESS! Sorry….Majority rules! And the BEST PART….It’s NOT like we are voting to FIRE THEM ALL! All we want is an ADJUSTMENT in pay and benefits! Have I told you I had my PAY CUT 20%….had my insurance costs go UP 25%? It’s about TIME govt workers got in line with the rest of us……
    I am SO FED up with this BS!!!
    GOD BLESS the people of WI for voting for a TRUE Governor! One willing to TAKE ON THE TOUGH issues and MAKE A DIFFERENCE! (YES..DARN RIGHT I AM USING CAPS!!! I’m YELLING!)
    Maybe we should try to be a little MORE like our good neighbors to the east! They have a kick butt Governor and the BEST FOOTBALL team! (And yes…I like the Vikes!!!)

    • conservativedude


  • Bob

    So you don’t show up for work , What would you rather do? If it was your job on the line and they were trying to get rid of it. Would you protest? Or just go to work and figure that “oh well” what happens happens?
    If you have years vested and are close to retirement you bet damn well I would have called in sick too. and would be there fighting for what I have yearned over all these years.

    • Cache

      Really…how about you pay your fair share in contributions and have equal pay of your civilian counterpart

    • Matt

      Bob, it’s not your job on the line it’s asking you to actually pitch into your retirement accounts like EVERYONE else does.

      My favorite part is the absolute HYPOCRITICAL teachers union that claims that everything is about the good of the children not the pay and benefits, but when someone holds them accountable to it they go AWOL and protest. That’s going to help the kids.

      I do have a question for you Bob, how much money are you giving to the union bosses annually? Maybe if we just shifted that money over to cover retirement everyone would win? Unions are a lot cause in the information age, it’s about time that someone is doing something about it.

      • Less = MORE!

        Answer me this…am I missing something? Or are you Dem/union people making a mountain out of a mole hill…..
        Isn’t this vote about changing the PAY structure and benefits package to be more in line with the private sector?
        Only a DEM would THINK this is going to lead to LESS EMPLOYMENT! Think of it this way….with more money to spend as pay will be more in line with the private sector…the schools will be able to HIRE MORE teachers, and allow for a BETTER student/teacher ratio! So for you to vote AGAINST this proves you are against a BETTER system for our children!!!

    • Ryan

      Bob – If I built my wealth off of exploiting my neighbors salary than I would be more ashamed than proud of what I had “earned.” Thats the difference that many lefties dont understand. Public sector employees get their money from their NEIGHBOR! Not some big bad evil corporation. When you demand additional money for benefits or wages – that is paid for by your NEIGHBOR – not Steve Jobs! Meanwhile, your neighbor thats paying your wages has mediocre healthcare (compared to your cadillac plan), a weak retirement plan (compared to your monstrous retirement plan), and actually has to be PRODUCTIVE to get a raise (which is in absolute contradiction to the unions automatic raises). Think about it – public sector employees wages are being paid by the same folks that are on Medicaid, CHIP, or numerous other kinds of government subsidies – seems kind of screwed up doesnt it? And you talk about selfishness?

      Now if this was a private sector union protesting than I would say you would have an argument, but its not. And people like you have a real hard time figuring out the difference.

      • Mike

        It seems equally self-centered and selfish that you want to set the worlds standards on health care, wages and retirement to yours, which if less, is promoting a race to the bottom.

  • Cache

    Send the national guard to found up these bum politicians for not showing up for work…Texas had the same problem and they did…democrats still haven’t recovered!

  • The Unit

    Hello my friends,

    Don’t worry. It all boils down to the Educated vs the Un-educated, like the new Wi Governor.

    Most republicans never went to college and thus do not see the importance of education.

    Things will turn around once these imbeciles realize who they voted for and what he actually is doing to the great state of Wi!

    • Cache

      Your Clueless!

    • Matt

      Unit, your statement couldn’t be more inaccurate. If you look at college graduates 46% consider themselves republicans vs 42.9% democrats.

      However the ONLY glaring stat is that 58.5% of those who didn’t even make to high school consider themselves democrats. Those would MOSTLY be the ones living off the government dole and supporting taxing everyone else.

  • Truth Hurts Huh?

    @the unit….
    Really? Can you post where you get your FACTS? Or are you like EVERY OTHER Dem out there and MAKE STUFF UP!
    PLEASE do NOT call us “friends”! think a LOT of people here would RATHER NOT call you that…..

    • Still waiting......

      Still waiting on the reference for those facts “Unit”…..Oh that’s right…you MADE them up!!!!

  • Common Sense

    What would be better for the state of WI…fire some of the government workers to help with the budget, or have them contribute more to their insurance, pensions, etc?

  • fawksocialconservatism

    Well WI, this is what happens when you vote for a republican governor! Live with it for another 4 years.

    • tea

      Maybe in four years they will be better of fiscally! Unlike us here in MN if Dayton gets his way!
      I PROMISE you their football team will be better than ours!
      Typical Dem….can only think as long as they have weed to smoke….

      • The Unit

        Yeah, just like that wimp Pawlenty left us better off…

        Oh wait! He actually Increased our debt to 6.2 Billion!

        The right are so wrong…

      • Matt

        Unit, basically everything you say is inaccurate, go ahead and look at the last biennium budget vs this one? What’s different? The spending is going up, if funding was held flat we wouldn’t have a budget hole.

        TPaw did cut local funding which make local municipalities decide if they were going to increase taxes or cut spending, but he isn’t responsible for the $6.2 B budget gap, the increased spending is.

        I’m not a TPaw guy, but at least get your facts right.

      • md

        Be nice if Wisonsin paid us the 58 million they ow us in Minnesota.

      • please tell us

        @MD…could you please go into more detail? WI owe’s MN $? I woul dlike to know from what….

      • fawksocialconservatism

        Nothing wrong with smoking weed ;) As a matter of fact if everyone in this country is allowed to choke up every once in awhile this country would would in it’s best shape in decades

    • Matt

      I wish we had him in MN

      • The spewnit

        AMEN MATT! The “the unit” doesn’t realize is if T-Paw was NOT in office..and we had Dayton in office….it would be 16.2 BILLION! OK..T-Paw may not have been the BEST…..but he was a heck of a lot better than Dayton!

      • Jon

        I’m a government employee but not in a union…best of both worlds apparently….

  • PAUL

    the coward wi gov and rebublicans will NOT bargain in GOOD Faith they should ALL be IMPEACHED , UNION PROUD

    • Ginger Shepla

      All of the senators not showing up to vote should be impeached. They need to do the job they are paid to do, not run away from something they disagree with.

      • PAUL

        they are standing up for the people who the coward wi gov and rebublicans WILL NOT MEET WITH !!! REMEMBER THE BULLIES IN THE SCHOOL YARD MY MEET THERE MATCH SOMETIME!

    • OneBigAssMistakeAmerica

      All I here you say is give me give me give me!

  • Tom Smith

    I love this bill. Goverment workers need to face reality. They make too much and have too many benefits. No private employees get these benefits. Because they are unsustainable!!
    Pass the bill Go Republicans!!

    • Patrick Lilja

      30-50K a year is “too much”?

      • Yes it is

        For someone who gets LIFE TIME benefits? Let’s not look at the “base pay”….let’s look at what they get paid for their LIFETIME after they retire! And works 9 months a year?
        Oh..and isn’t this what the case is about? Retirement pay?
        As soon as your benefits match the private sector….then you can complain about pay!

    • Paul

      tom your and IDIOT I’m a state of Minnesota employee we haven’t seen a raise in 8 years and our benifits have been cut EVERY year so bit me!!!! I made 38k last year after 12 years with the Sate of Minnesota doing a highly skilled job

      • I right well

        Paul, does this highly skilled job involve the use of spellcheck? I can imagine what highly skilled actually is…

  • Its about barganing rights, not money

    Just talked with womeone from Wi. Said the plan will cost him and his wife 13,000. That is not the problem. What he was worried about was losing rights to bargin and letting the administration decide who gets a contract for the next year. Here is what will happen, his the administrators friends or but ickers will get to keep their job, teachers who cost more will not. It will not be based upon skill or abllity, just cost. Wait until the best teachers are fired just because they are not afraid to stand up to an administrator who has NO idea what is going on in the classroom.

    • Ryan

      Sounds like your arguing for some sort of “Merit Pay” program……….

    • Like the Nurse strike?

      It’s about the money, at least own that!

  • mark from

    This is like the Nurse strike we had here in MN last year. The Union said it was about the patients, but when they got their MONEY they seemed to not care any more about the patients. So typical of the Unions. Hey WI show the Union the door!!

  • Sam

    This is why I am so glad we have a Dem governor and a republican congress. Wow, it would be bad to have both congress and the governor being the same party, whether it be Dem or Republican.

    • Matt

      The government doing nothing is a good thing… Sorry, it’s hard to tell so I’m being honest, the best government is no government.

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