Opponents of Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining bill started sleeping at the Capitol to ensure a spot at public hearings, but the campouts became a mainstay. Pictured here on Feb. 21, 2011. Credit: John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal

Impact of anti-union law explored; local officials in WI can’t fire police; racial disparity seen in Racine sentencing; GOP’s ties to armed militants; caviar crime? 


Of note: This week we highlight one of several retrospectives of Act 10, the controversial law that gutted collective bargaining rights for public employee unions in Wisconsin to plug a state budget hole. The surprise move by Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans in 2011 sparked weeks-long protests and an occupation of the state Capitol building. Former Wisconsin Watch intern Riley Vetterkind, now a reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal, looks back at the chaos and the impact that the law has had on Wisconsin.  

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Opponents of Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining bill started sleeping at the Capitol to ensure a spot at public hearings, but the campouts became a mainstay. Pictured here on Feb. 21, 2011. Credit: John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal

10 years later: Wisconsin’s Act 10 has produced labor savings, but at a cost

Wisconsin State Journal — February 7, 2021

Ten years ago, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, a newly elected Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans who held the majority in the Legislature ushered in a new era of politics in Wisconsin with the passage of Act 10 — decimating public sector labor unions, delivering taxpayers a windfall and forever altering the relationship between government workers and their employers. A Wisconsin State Journal review of Act 10’s impact found the law offered Wisconsinites cheaper government, lower taxes and a way out of the immediate budget crisis. But those benefits came at the cost of public employees and exacerbated inequality in the state.

Related coverage: Watch now: The Great Divide | 10 stories about Act 10

‘Its own domestic army’: How the G.O.P. allied itself with militants

New York Times — February 8, 2021

Wisconsin has seen an armed militia member shoot two protesters to death and seriously wound a third in Kenosha. Another militia member from Wisconsin was charged in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and bring her to “trial” in Cambria, Wisconsin. The New York Times’ story traces the close relationship that has developed in next-door Michigan between the Republican Party and armed vigilantes.

Lights shine on the outside of the Milwaukee Police Department on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. Credit: Angela Major / WPR

Activists push for police firings, but elected officials don’t have power to do that

WPR — February 8, 2021

Since this summer, calls for nationwide police reform have grown ever louder. But meaningful change has been slow to follow. Standing in the way in Wisconsin is a system where police departments are often insulated from accountability. And it has been that way for more than 100 years. A state law passed in 1885 gives volunteer citizen boards authority to hire and fire police and fire chiefs. That means when people call for the removal of a police officer or chief, the mayor or city council can’t step in. Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride came up against the law firsthand. When McBride was called on to make bold changes after an officer killed three people of color in five years, he said his hands were tied.

Related coverage: Fire and Police Commission failed to follow processes in demotion of former Police Chief Morales, report finds

Wisconsin biologist charged with lying about caviar scheme

Associated Press — February 11, 2021

Prosecutors charged the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ top sturgeon expert with obstructing an investigation into allegations that his employees have been funneling the valuable fish’s eggs to a network of caviar processors under the guise of a scientific study.

Wisconsin Watch

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.