Judge tosses much of Wis. collective bargaining law
September 14th, 2012
07:42 PM ET
2 years ago

Judge tosses much of Wis. collective bargaining law

(CNN) - A Wisconsin judge on Friday ruled as unconstitutional major portions of the controversial state law that restricted the collective bargaining rights of many public employees.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan B. Colas found several aspects of the law contrary to both the state and U.S. constitutions.

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A challenge to the law was brought against Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission by two labor unions representing education and municipal employees.

Passed and signed in March 2011, the law restricts the rights of public employee unions to bargain collectively.

It also closed a $137 million hole the state budget and required many public workers - except police and firefighters - to pay more for their retirement and health benefits.

The suit claims the law restricts employees’ free speech, due process and association rights, and violates certain labor regulations. It also argued the Legislature did not have the authority to consider this law during the special legislative session in which it was passed.

Colas found that the law was not passed in violation of restrictions placed on special legislative sessions nor violated the constitutional due process protection.

But it did violate the employees' association and speech rights, Colas ruled.

The law serves to "single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions," Colas wrote.

He also found a portion of the law relating to retirement contributions exceeded the legislature's authority and was a "local affair." The Wisconsin Constitution grants broad authority over non-statewide issues to local governments.

The suit was brought by employees of the Madison Metropolitan School District and the City of Milwaukee. It was not clear Friday how the ruling would affect state workers.

In a statement released after the ruling, Walker suggested the state would appeal and he referenced his June recall election win.

"The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5. Now, they are ready to move on," he said. "Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process."

The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO union president said in a statement, "Scott Walker's attempt to silence the union men and women of Wisconsin's public sector was an immoral, unjust and illegal power grab."

"Now, a court has ruled that the essential provisions of Act 10, Scott Walker's draconian attack on public worker's right to collectively bargain, is unconstitutional," Phil Neuenfeldt said.

Protesters swarmed the state house in 2011 as the law was under consideration, and several legal challenges and a nationally-watched recall election seeking the ouster of Walker followed passage of the law.

National political and union groups weighed in, sending money and supporters to aid both sides.

Democratic legislators fled the state to prevent the state Senate from reaching a quorum and voting on the measure, and at least one Republican legislator said he received death threats.


Filed under: Wisconsin
soundoff (426 Responses)
  1. enuff

    Doh.

    September 14, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  2. Malory Archer

    To borrow a quote from Nelson Muntz, "HA ha!"

    September 14, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  3. DC Centrist

    Just note that this was a Wisconsin state judge–NOT a federal judge. So all arguments about judicial activism by a liberal obama-appointed court should be avoided.

    September 14, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  4. EATABIRD

    AH HA to Gov. 'Sleaze' who never mentioned doing this to Organized Labor in his bid for election or else he wouldn't have become Gov. in the first place

    September 14, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  5. rc roeder

    Gov. Scott Walker is not having a good year

    September 14, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  6. Joe

    If America lets the Republicans control their rights to collectively bargain, America will become a Facist State. I'm not a union member nor have I ever been but that is insane!!!!!!!!!! Good for this judge!!!!!!!!!

    The corporations already hire millions of Mexicans to avoid paying a living wage, now they want to break the unions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 14, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  7. Brendan

    Most of us who are watching the absurd events in Chicago aren't celebrating this devastating blow to our educational system. Workers pay and their benefits come before a childs education. VERY sad.

    September 14, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  8. Gurgyl

    Collective bargaining is a legal right under labor laws. No one can deny this.

    September 14, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Can't win against these liberals!

    September 14, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  10. CGRet

    Nothing like legislating from the bench.

    September 14, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  11. Sam Smith

    Are Wosconsin judges dumb or what?
    I challenge someone to tell me a logical reason: as a taxpayer, why would I want to have public unions? Does not make sense (unless I would belong to the union also).

    September 14, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  12. KellyF

    And in the end Wisconsin WINS. Take that election theif!

    September 14, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  13. ruemorgue

    Good. We don't need dictatorial, fascists running *anything*.

    September 14, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  14. Katie

    Yay!!

    September 14, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  15. ramble3144

    They should fire these political judges. They ruin the USA.

    September 14, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  16. Dann DFW

    I'm amazed at how so-called fiscal conservatives have unlimited funds to pay lawyers to appeal laws, deport all illegal immigrants and ensure that any woman who wants an abortion is forced to have a medically unnecessary ultrasound (TX law) but helping someone who works two jobs at minimum wage to support his family after he lost his job in the financial meltdown is seen as a handout and needs to stop.

    September 14, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  17. Tim

    Thank you, Judge Colas.

    September 14, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  18. Bob

    Nice, very nice.

    September 14, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  19. Brian Myers

    Don't stop Gov. Walker. Unions, once the cure, are now the disease.

    September 14, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  20. Dave

    An important victory over oppressive business interests who would love to see our most fundamental labor laws disappear.

    September 14, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  21. myviewis

    And this is a surprise that the Unions would get their way?????

    September 14, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  22. Kahuna

    In a statement released after the ruling, Gov. Scott Walker predicted the "state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process."

    translation: "we will keep appealing until we get our way."

    September 14, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  23. shytownbill

    ha ha

    September 14, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  24. Scott Walker

    No!

    September 14, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  25. db

    Workers have too many rights. How are CEOs sposda get richer if they have to pay people fair wages?

    September 14, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
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