March 8, 2011- With hundreds of union supporters loudly protesting outside their doors, Senate Republicans set up a final vote for Wednesday to give state-appointed emergency managers much greater power to overhaul city or school finances, including termination of employee union contracts.
The legislation drew more than 1,000 protesters to the Capitol, and many swarmed into the rotunda chanting “Kill the bill” and distracting the Senate during its regular session. Dozens packed the gallery above the Senate floor and were mostly quiet but admonished at one point for clapping and cheering.
Senate sergeants-at-arms watched crowd warily to assure it did not attempt to enter the chamber, where decorum is strictly enforced.
Senate Democrats, outnumbered 26-12, were repeatedly snubbed in their effort to amend a bill that has become one flashpoint for labor unions to rally against what they call an assault on bargaining rights.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said the Senate would likely pass the legislation Wednesday
That invites yet another protest at the Capitol, where several rallies in recent weeks have been spurred in part by political clashes and pro-union demonstrations in Wisconsin’s Capitol building over Republican attempts to eliminate collective bargaining rights for state employees.
“There’s a lot going on in this country,” said retired Livonia school teacher Mike Kelly, 62, who was among those outside the Capitol for a rally.
He said the emergency manager bills are part of a larger conservative effort to crush unions’ political clout, especially in presidential elections.
“We didn’t create financial crisis, we’ve given up wages and concessions in benefits over the years,” he said. “This is about power.”