Wisconsin Committee Passes Scott Walker-Backed Bill Targeting Labor

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker walks off stage after speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, DC on February 26, 2015.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

A Wisconsin Assembly committee passed a bill backed by Republican Governor Scott Walker that would reduce union revenue and membership, leading to what could be 24 hours of debate on the measure by the full body tomorrow.

The Committee on Labor passed the right-to-work bill, which would let employees in union workplaces opt out of membership and dues, 6-3 on Wednesday along party lines. The measure goes to the Republican-controlled Assembly for a final vote, and Walker, a potential presidential candidate, has said he would sign the bill Monday.

Walker, 47, and other Republicans said the bill is needed to keep Wisconsin competitive with nearby Iowa, Indiana and Michigan, all right-to-work states, by giving workers choice and attracting employers.

Labor leaders have criticized it as an attempt to weaken unions, which have backed Democrats. They also say the bill is meant to boost Walker while distracting from the state’s budget shortfall.

“I still hold out hope that we can be a deliberative body, that they hear what we’re saying, and that we don’t have yet another issue where the middle class is sacrificed on the altar of Scott Walker’s presidential ambitions,” Representative Cory Mason, a Democrat, said during a press conference today in Madison.

The measure drew thousands of demonstrators to the Capitol last week and another rally is planned Thursday. They echo protests during a weeks-long standoff in 2011 over Walker’s move to curb bargaining rights for public employees.

The fight elevated Walker’s status among Republicans and encouraged talk of a 2016 presidential bid.

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