Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker warned Tuesday that state employees could start receiving layoff notices as early as next week if a bill eliminating most collective bargaining rights isn't passed soon.
Walker said in a statement to The Associated Press that the layoffs wouldn't take effect immediately. He didn't say which workers would be targeted but he has repeatedly warned that up to 1,500 workers could lose their jobs by July if his proposal isn't passed.
The 97-union South Central Federation of Labor voted Monday night to prepare for a general strike that would take place if Gov. Scott Walker succeeds in enacting his budget repair bill, which would strip most bargaining rights from most public employee unions.
The strike would call for union and non-union workers in large swaths of the workforce to stop working, said Carl Aniel, labor federation delegate from AFSCME Local 171.
It was unclear Tuesday how many workers would take part and how the strike might work.
Walker’s proposal, part of a bill to close a $137 million budget shortfall for the year that ends June 30, sparked days of massive protests at the Capitol and a walkout by Democratic state senators that has stalled action on the legislation.
The strike could affect schools, governments and private businesses, but crucial life-and-death services would not be interrupted, Aniel said Tuesday morning.
“It doesn’t mean that everyone is going to stop working on a particular moment or day,” Aniel said. “It means that we are preparing so that the decisions are made in a very significantly different way so that it protects the people of Wisconsin.”
But some services would be shut down, he said. The labor group would still have to determine which services would be shut down, he added.
“If it was decided the governor’s mansion really wasn’t that important and it wasn’t that important to heat it or give it electricity or to guard it, then those things wouldn’t happen,” Aniel said.
A website designed to keep protesters informed has been blocked by administrators inside the state Capitol, according to a claim by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
Party officials said that the website www.defendwisconsin.org, which was set up by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Teacher Assistants, was accessible after its launch last week until at least Friday. It was then that website organizers realized their site, which was being used to let protesters know the latest news details and to let them know where volunteers were needed, had been shut down for those signing on as a guest to the free Wi-Fi offered inside the state Capitol.
Sachin Chheda, a Democratic activist and former IT employee at the State Capitol, said there are a number of sites that are blocked from users, but he said in order to block this site specifically, somebody would have had to make a conscious effort to do so.