Slowing down the legislative process is the only hope Democrats in Wisconsin have in fighting a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining for most of the state's public employees, a University of Wisconsin political scientist said.
"Their real hope is that they can slow it down, not have a quorum and use that leverage to either take the bargaining rights part out of the budget repair bill or get some kind of a compromise," Dennis Dresang, a professor emeritus in political science and public affairs, told MPR's Morning Edition.
Democratic legislators left Madison on Thursday, vowing not to return until at least Saturday. They're protesting a bill that Republican Gov. Scott Walker is pushing that would eliminate the collective bargaining rights public employees in Wisconsin have had for a half century.
Because Republicans have majorities in both the House and Senate, the legislation has a good chance of passing.
Dresang said while the governor has made the collective bargaining issue a part of a budget repair bill, it has more to do with the political agenda Walker and Wisconsin Republicans are pushing.
"Gov. Walker's made it very clear that his agenda is to extend this to the private sector," Dresang said. "The only reason why it's just focused on the public sector now is he has to somehow link it to the repair bill."
Dresang said while Wisconsin isn't unique in trying to cut back compensation costs for public employees, so far it's alone in trying to cut back unions' power to negotiate. But he also said the Wisconsin effort to eliminate collective bargaining could come up in other states.
To learn more about the situation for public employees in Minnesota, see this story.
(MPR's Cathy Wurzer contributed to this report.)