US & Canada

Wisconsin state assembly votes through anti-union bill

Police remove a protester from the state capitol
Image caption Police removed protesters from the capitol on Thursday, the day after the bill passed the Senate

The Wisconsin state assembly has voted to approve a plan to strip public-sector unions of most of their collective bargaining rights.

Senate Republicans used a procedural move to pass the bill on Wednesday.

Republican Governor Scott Walker promised to sign the bill into law as quickly as possible.

AFL-CIO union leader Richard Trumka earlier attacked the Republicans' move as a "corruption of democracy". The plan has prompted widespread protest.

Police have been ejecting demonstrators from the state capitol building after weeks of mass demonstrations in support of public workers.

Mr Walker and Republicans say the bill is necessary to help the state balance its budget deficit.

"This is about protecting the middle class and doing it in a way that avoids massive tax increases and massive lay-offs," Mr Walker said on Thursday.

He added that the bill would give local governments the "tools" they needed to balance their own budgets.

Protesters flood capitol

The US state's 14 Democratic senators had sought to prevent the bill moving forward by fleeing the state, leaving the chamber short of the number needed for a vote.

But Republicans used a procedural move to allow them to vote on the measure in committee instead on Wednesday evening.

Crowds of protesters swamped the state capitol in Madison following the vote.

The state House - the lower legislative chamber - passed the measure in a 53-43 vote on Thursday afternoon, after police had removed protesters from the building.

The state faces a $3.6bn (£2.23bn) budget deficit in the coming two-year period. The bill on labour unions would affect rubbish collectors, teachers, nurses, prison guards and other public workers.

Democrats, labour unions and their supporters, who disparage the bill as an attack on labour unions and on the middle class, spent three weeks protesting at the state capitol building.

On Thursday, Mr Trumka, head of one of the largest labour union coalitions in the US, told reporters the Republican move had engendered solidarity among union supporters.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, Mr Trumka joked that unions should give Mr Walker their "Mobiliser of the Year" award for galvanizing support for labour among thousands of protesters and in national polls.

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