MADISON, Wis. — Even as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Friday signed into law a bill that sharply curbs collective bargaining for most public employees, his opponents were preparing for more demonstrations, court battles and political infighting over what has become a national test of labor's power.
Organizers were hoping to attract tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol today for a rally featuring the return of Democratic lawmakers who fled the state on Feb. 17 in an effort to block the measure from passing. Along with the rally, Democrats are planning to ask the courts to overturn the new law, and they have begun circulating petitions to recall some lawmakers. GOP supporters are circulating their own recall petitions, directed at the Democrats.
Despite the continuing sparring, Walker defended the bill, which he had proposed as part of an austerity package to balance the state's finances by increasing employee contributions for health care and pension benefits.
"In the end, this bill goes back to what we said last fall," the Republican governor said. The measure, he said, would protect middle-class jobs, make government on all levels work better and protect good employees who might have been laid off. "What we're doing here in Wisconsin is leading the way with a better alternative."
Friday's signing was the latest step in a month of protests by unionists and their Democratic allies, a fight that turned Wisconsin into a national political battleground. Other Midwestern states are considering measures similar to Wisconsin's.