HUDSON, WIS. -- A half-hour before Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker arrived at a small factory Tuesday, police erected barricades to corral protesters and halt traffic a block in every direction.

A wave of angry chants greeted Walker's black sedan as it drove past protesters and pulled up to the front door of Empire Bucket Inc., a nonunion company that relocated from St. Paul in the 1980s. Walker emerged, cracked an uneasy smile and waved to a few sign-waving supporters off to the side.

Walker is touring Wisconsin to promote his budget solution and declare the state "open for business." But what was designed to be a discreet visit to a struggling business -- a political slam dunk for most business-friendly politicians -- offered fresh proof that fallout from Walker's decision to end collective bargaining for most state workers still dogs the new governor. These days, routine political stops call for heavy security and last-minute public notifications to outfox protesters.

Inside, Walker shook hands and hugged supporters before touring the workshop, where industrial buckets for front-end loaders are made. A small cluster of protesters could be seen across the street through an open doorway, but a noisy ventilation system almost drowned out their chants of "Recall! Recall!" and "What's disgusting? Union busting."

"What we did this last month makes positive changes to get people in Wisconsin working again," said Walker, standing under a giant American flag hanging in the workshop.

About 30 factory workers sat politely while Walker talked about the need to stabilize the state's budget and reduce the sting of taxation for companies and middle-class families.

"We want to help keep the money in your pockets, not in the government's pocket," Walker said. "That helps everybody."

Walker told workers that the changes he proposed would merely bring government workers' health care and pension contributions more in line with their own.

The workers sat quietly, neither applauding nor reacting negatively.

Walker then talked about the thousands of protesters who have converged at the State Capitol in Madison and at his recent political stops.

"I am not going to let them choke out the voices of the millions of taxpayers in the state who want nothing more than the chance to have a good job, have a good family and have a good life," he said.

After a 15-minute talk, Walker posed for a group portrait with workers and the company's owner.

Outside, the protest grew to 200 people during Walker's hourlong visit. Many protesters had driven over from the Twin Cities, where union leaders said they had not learned of the visit until late morning and had little time to dispatch members.

One protester, Gail Upton, relished the chance to see Walker up close and convey a simple message: Next election, she wants him gone.

"We need to get the message out that what he's doing is totally unacceptable to the people of Wisconsin," said Upton, an unemployed librarian from River Falls, Wis. "He thinks we elected a dictator."

Sue Purchase raced over from Minneapolis.

"This is insane," she said. "Talk about an assault on America."

Purchase, who works to prevent HIV infection, said she worries that the battle that Wisconsin unions faced -- and lost -- will eventually come to Minnesota. She said Minnesotans who support unions find comfort in knowing DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is at the helm, but shouldn't.

"Who's to say this can't happen?" she asked. "We need to stand up, be heard and get rid of the apathy."

Protesters roared and booed when someone jumped into a dark sedan like the one Walker had arrived in and sped off, sirens blaring.

But the car was a decoy.

A moment later, Walker posed for a few more pictures and hugged supporters as a side door opened.

"You're doing the right thing," someone said.

Walker smiled and then slid into another dark sedan idling at the side entrance.

Protesters caught a glimpse of the governor stepping into the car, which then edged out of the parking lot, protesters howling as it accelerated away.

Baird Helgeson • 651-222-1288