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Wisconsin's Gov. Walker Shows Signs Of Yielding On Some Labor Provisions

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Andy Manis
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Aides to Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker have been in talks with state senate Democrats in which the Republican position appears to be softening, according to e-mails obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

According to the e-mails, while the governor's office still wants limits to collective bargaining, it's willing to allow more issues to come under such bargaining than initially the case.

The e-mails really get into the weeds but here's an example. Under the controversial budget-repair legislation SB 11, public employee unions wouldn't be able to negotiate with state or local governments for wage increases that exceeded the consumer price index unless a voter referendum allowed it.

The proposal outlined in the e-mail would remove that restriction. And while the legislation would require employees to vote annually that they wanted union representation, the proposal from the governor's aides would require a vote every three years.

An excerpt from the Journal Sentinel story:

Madison - Gov. Scott Walker's office released documents Tuesday detailing back-and-forth talks with Senate Democrats in Illinois about his union bargaining bill, showing his office is willing to give on some aspects of the proposal but also frustrating one senator involved in the confidential talks.

The e-mails released to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request showed ideas and counteroffers made by the Republican governor's aides and two Democrats as they sought some resolution that would allow Democrats to come back to the state. Senate Democrats have been holed up in Illinois since Feb. 17, when they left Wisconsin to block a vote on Walker's budget-repair bill.

The Journal-Sentinel goes on to report that at least one Democrat was upset that the governor's office released the e-mails. But as the Journal Sentinel reports, they were released because the new organization made a request under the state's version of the federal Freedom of Information Act.

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.