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Senate Debate On Right-To-Work Draws Outbursts From Spectators

About 12 Protesters Have Been Ejected From Public Gallery

Shawn Johnson/WPR News

About a dozen people have been removed from the public gallery of the Wisconsin state Senate for disrupting debate during a right-to-work bill.

Protesters spoke out at the beginning of the debate Wednesday afternoon and have sporadically interrupted debate throughout the afternoon.

The first disruptions came during the opening comments on the bill by its lead sponsor Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. The first person yelled that the measure was turning Wisconsin into a banana republic and was an attack on democracy. He was applauded by others in the gallery after being taken away.

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A second person seconds later yelled that right-to-work is un-American. He too was removed, prompting warnings from Senate President Mary Lazich that all spectators would be removed if disruptions continue.

Later, another man yelled that the “voices of workers deserve to be heard!” as he was taken away by police. Another yelled: “You’re robbing our families, you’re robbing me!”

Some in the gallery are listening to the debate with tape over their mouths.

The bill would make it voluntary for private-sector workers to pay union dues. Supporters say it’s about worker freedom, while opponents say it will hurt unions and lead to lower pay and benefits.

Senate Democrats repeatedly questioned who asked for the bill. Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said the workers of Wisconsin did not want it.

“You’re turning your back on them. They are the foundation of our state. They are the strong backs. They are the sharp minds. They are the calloused hands that invest in ourselves and our communities,” Shilling said.

Senate Republicans say they have the votes to pass the bill tonight and send it to the Assembly next week.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated after more disruptions occurred during the debate.