Union workers bring a little Wisconsin cheese in protest at Kansas House chamber


TOPEKA– Labor supporters have been ejected from the House chamber after bursting out in shouts of “Vote no! Vote no!” on House Bill 2130.

As the 50-60 labor supporters were escorted from the chamber by Capitol security and Highway Patrol officers, House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, said “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more dismal display of disrespect for the House,” in 27 years as a legislator.

Moments later, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, responded that in his nine years, “I’m not sure I’ve seen a more dismal piece of legislation.”

Davis’ remark touched off a cheer — audible inside the House chamber — from a hallway outside where union supporters watched on a big-screen monitor after they were thrown out.

The final vote was 75-64.

Numerous Democratic representatives had a statement read into the record charging that Republicans are changing the law to strengthen their own political position for the next election. Most union political money supports Democratic candidates and views.

Several Republicans joined in a statement saying that the purpose of the bill is to protect union workers from having their dues money spent on political causes they might not support.

TOPEKA — It’s like a little bit of Wisconsin right now outside the House chamber at the state Capitol.

About 50 to 60 labor supporters have formed a gantlet at the entrance, cheering their supporters in the Legislature and yelling “Vote no!” at supporters of a bill to reduce union political influence.

The bill, HB 2130, would outlaw a paycheck checkoff that allows workers to have donations to their union’s political action committee deducted directly from their wages.

The bill won preliminary passage Wednesday and is on the calendar for final action today.

The demonstration is inspired — albeit at a much lower level of participation — by the situation in Madison, Wisc., where labor unions and their supporters have packed the Capitol for almost two weeks to fight efforts by that state’s governor to take away benefits and collective-bargaining rights.

The Topeka protesters are peaceful, but at times loud.

At one point, a Highway Patrol officer leaned over the rail overlooking the demonstration and yelled “‘Scuse me folks, no disturbances, this is gonna be your last warning.”

“People’s house!” one of the protesters shouted back.

As the session began, union supporters filed into the House public viewing gallery.

Bruce Tunnell, executive vice president of the Kansas AFL-CIO, told them, “Keep quiet, but when 2130 comes up, do whatever you want.”