Wisconsin Democrats return

The 14 Wisconsin state Senate Democrats who fled the state in order to block passage of a controversial union bill will return Thursday.

The Democrats' return comes less than 24 hours after Wisconsin Republicans in the state Senate used a procedural ploy to pass the measure, which would curtail collective bargaining rights for unionized state workers.

The Democratic legislators left Wisconsin several weeks ago to deny the state senate quorum to bring a budget repair bill, which included the anti-union measure, to the floor for a vote.

The standoff drew national attention. Madison, the state capital, became the center of a national confrontation between pro-labor liberals and conservatives siding with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) who backed the bill.

On Wednesday, state senate Republicans detached the collective bargaining provision from the budget bill. Not being a fiscal matter, the collective bargaining bill could be brought to the floor without a quorum of 20. Wisconsin state Senators, all Republicans, brought the new bill and passed it Wednesday night.

The bill will now go to the state assembly, where passage is expected. Walker has promised to sign the bill into law.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, state Sen. Jim Holperin says he is returning to Wisconsin today and the other Democrats are either also returning or will leave Illinois soon.

But Holperin said the 14 Democrats weren't going to return to the Capitol in Madison soon because the state Senate doesn't reconvene until April 5.

It is unclear what actions the Democratic lawmakers might take, but the Republican ploy has reignited the opposition. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Thursday slammed Walker and Wisconsin Republicans for "overreaching."

State and national liberal and union groups are promising further action. Recall efforts to remove eight Wisconsin Republican senators are going forward. Other opponents charge that the way the bill was passed violates state law.