Union battles erupt nationwide after Wisconsin

A protestor shouts at the broadcast of the Ohio House floor debate on Senate Bill 5 Wednesday, March 30, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio. The bill would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights.
AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

The controversial new law in Wisconsin scaling back union rights has been put on hold after a fierce battle with union supporters, but state lawmakers across the country are moving forward similar bills in their own states.

Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker said today that his administration would comply with a court order and stop the implementation of the new law, which would dramatically scale back most public employees' collective bargaining rights, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The state appealed the court's original order halting the law, and the case may or may not go before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Walker's collective bargaining bill prompted fierce opposition from Democrats, unions and union supporters. Massive protests took place in Wisconsin for weeks as the legislature considered the bill, and all of the Wisconsin state senators fled the state for three weeks in February to stall a vote on the measure.

Now other state legislatures across the country are taking on collective bargaining rights -- and seeing protests of their own.

The Ohio legislature on Wednesday night approved a bill to scale back collective bargaining rights -- one that in some ways is more restrictive than the Wisconsin legislation. The move has outraged union supporters, who protested at the statehouse this week. Republican Gov. John Kasich will sign the legislation, but opponents are promising to put the matter up before voters this November as a ballot referendum.

In New Hampshire today, hundreds of people protested outside of the statehouse as lawmakers inside discussed a proposed state budget that includes a provision to roll back collective bargaining and cut funding for nearly all state services, the Concord Monitor reports.

Legislation to sharply curb teachers' collective bargaining rights advanced in the Tennessee state legislature on Wednesday, even though the measure drew thousands of protesters to Nashville earlier this month.

Bills targeting collective bargaining rights are also in the works in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Rhode Island and elsewhere.

Labor unions, meanwhile, aren't seeking to unify the opposition. The AFL-CIO is organizing protests in all 50 states on and around April 4 "to stand together for the right for all workers to collectively bargain for a middle class life, the right to a voice in the political process and respect for work and for working America."

The demonstrations will take place on April 4 to commemorate the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death in Memphis, where he was assassinated while supporting striking sanitation workers. More than 600 events are currently scheduled.

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