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State Senate passes right-to-work bill, heads to Assembly next week

After over eight hours of intense debate, Wisconsin State Senators passed the controversial \"right-to-work\" legislation late Wednesday night.

The measure passed by a 17-15 vote, with all Senate Democrats voting in opposition of the bill along with one Republican, Senator Jerry Petrowski.

The legislation made it to the full state senate for an extraordinary session after the Senate Labor Committee approved it Tuesday night. A public hearing on the bill was cut short Tuesday night after reports of a 'credible threat' from protesters. 

Supporters of right-to-work say the law protects employees by allowing them to decide for themselves if they want to join a union instead of having dues automatically withdrawn.

\"As a strong supporter of right-to-work, I welcome the opportunity to take up legislation that gives Wisconsin workers the freedom to choose to join a union,\" Speaker Robin Vos said in a statement. \"Wisconsin should be a right-to-work state. The public widely supports worker freedom and the potential positive impact to the state's economy can no longer be ignored.\"

Opponents say the bill is just another distraction from other pressing issues in the state. 

\"Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and right-to-work would only make things worse,\" Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca said in a statement. \"By rushing to pass Right to Work in less than a week, clearly the governor and Republican legislators want to distract from how destructive their budget is for Wisconsin's workers, students and middle-class families.\"

The bill now heads to the State Assembly, who will debate and potentially vote on it next week.

Follow our capitol bureau reporter David Ade for all of the latest happenings in Madison. His Twitter handle is @DavidAdeCBS58

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