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Wisconsin Capitol Empty of Protesters; Governor to Issue Layoffs
March 3, 2011

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The protesters have now left Madison for the most part, as Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker, presses on with his plan to lay off more than a thousand state workers in a gambit designed to get Senate Democrats to return to the capital.

A total of 14 Senators have been absent for many days now, avoiding a vote on Walker's proposed legislation that would severely curtail the power of unions in the state to negotiate on behalf of workers. The state House has already passed the bill, and Walker has vowed to sign it.

Walker and his fellow GOP lawmakers say that the legislation, which would also require state workers to contribute more of their paychecks to their own health plans and pensions, is needed to help the state pay off its massive debt. Democrats counter that the bills do too much damage to the power of unions and, therefore, workers' rights.

The layoff vow from Walker is another attempt to coax Democratic Senators back to the Senate chambers. An earlier strategy of sending state troopers to the Democratic Senators' home addresses turned up no one home.

Outside the state Senate chambers, the crowds had been the big story — literally. One Saturday, the crowd numbered 70,000 as people chanted, sang, and otherwise demonstrated their right to speak out against the proposed legislation. Many people had camped out in and around the capitol building for weeks, desperate to be heard. The capitol building has been cleared, however, after a judge ordered the building closed during non-business hours. No arrests were made. Many of the few hundred protesters left vowed to return.



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