Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker succeeded Friday in taking away nearly all collective bargaining rights from the vast majority of the state’s public employees, quietly capping weeks of contentious debate and delivering an epic defeat to the labor movement with a private bill signing.
The governor planned a public ceremony later in the afternoon.
The measure passed the state’s Assembly a day earlier following more than three weeks of protests that drew tens of thousands of people to the Capitol in opposition. The Senate cleared the way for passage with a surprise move Wednesday that allowed them to move the measure forward without 14 Democratic senators present.
The proposal has touched off a national debate over labor rights for public employees, and its implementation is a key victory for Republicans who have targeted unions in nationwide efforts to slash government spending. But union leaders said they plan to use the setback to fire up their members nationwide and mount a major counterattack against Republicans at the ballot box in 2012.
Walker told unions last week that he would have to lay off 1,500 workers if the bill didn’t pass. He rescinded those layoff notices Friday.
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