WI Unions Win Collective Bargaining Battle
Written By: ECJ Staff | Posted: Friday, September 14th, 2012
Dane County Judge Juan Colas ruled Friday that Act 10, the 2011 law limiting collective bargaining privileges for government employee unions, violates the Wisconsin Constitution. The judgment comes after Madison Teachers, Inc. and a Milwaukee public employee union sued Governor Scott Walker and three other officials claiming that the controversial law violated the plaintiff's rights to free speech, association, and equal protection as stated under Article One of the State Constitution. The Milwaukee union also claimed that the law violates the City of Milwaukee's home rule authority as noted in Article Eleven of the Constitution.
Governor Walker has already issued a statement opposing the decision and stating his plans to appeal. It is unclear whether the judge's ruling will eliminate the law until the appeal is decided. According to Walker, "[w]e are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process."
Assembly leader Peter Barca of Kenosha applauded the decision saying, "This is a huge victory for Wisconsin workers and a huge victory for free speech. This decision will help to re-establish the balance between employees and their employers."
Democratic candidates for office are hoping that the decision will encourage supporters and others to vote for them in November's elections. Rob Zerban, candidate for the 1st congressional district represented by Paul Ryan said, "[W]hat Governor Walker and folks like Paul Ryan don't understand is that stomping on the middle class to cater to the wealthy is not sound fiscal policy. At the core of our society, and woven into the fabric of our constitution is the sense that we are in this together. That foundation is what has made us strong, and it is what will pull us out of this recession. And it is why this law is unconstitutional."
Whether enough Wisconsinites will unite around this sense of togetherness is unclear. While the Democratic Party and the unions may have won a victory over the issue of collective bargaining, the GOP and their tea party foot soldiers may have just lost any sense of apathy towards the coming November elections. Judge Colas' ruling could be enough impetus to arouse conservative voters that have been overwhelmed with the two years of protests and recall elections that have resulted from the Republican enacted laws of the 2011 Legislative session.
Concerning the constitutionality of the Dane County judge's ruling, Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation stated, "The court is 100 percent wrong with this ruling, which completely ignores the fact that these reforms protect individual state employees who, without the protections of Act 10, would be forced to pay union officials they want nothing to do with just to keep their job. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that 'unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of nonmember-employees'. We hope the state will quickly appeal this outrageous decision."
- ECJ Staff