Judge tosses much of Wis. collective bargaining law
September 14th, 2012
07:42 PM ET
6 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. cardog

    Strange, if I must say so myself..Oh, my bad, I am the only one saying anything tonight. Where are my right wing friends with their sharp comments and witty put-downs? This is the start of what we call in America, "doing the right thing". States that have TeapubliCANT govenors have attempted to pass laws restricting workers/unions, returned the old Jim Crow pole tax in the name of protecting voter rights, but in reality restricting certain voters the right to vote.
    Slowly but surely, the law is over-turning these un-American moves by the TeapubliCANTS.

    September 14, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  2. Chris

    No one should get excited about this decision. It was by a District Court judge whose court may well have been selected by the plaintiffs. The real decision will be that of the State Supreme Court. At this point, it is much ado about nothing.

    September 14, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  3. Alan

    Guess if a judge rules the election in November is void everyone will just go along? It is time to end the judicial tyranny in the US.

    September 14, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  4. Gordyb102

    Justice done.

    September 14, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  5. bigfoot

    It was always just a matter of time. These fascists have been gaining for the last 35 years but the proverbial waste contacted the air moving device with the advent of the OWS movement.

    September 14, 2012 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  6. conrad


    September 14, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  7. Vic

    GOOD! Unions make America strong.

    September 14, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  8. Harlon Katz

    We shall see when the law goes back to the Supreme Court of WI – they already approved of the law. It will not be the first time a liberal Democratic Party judge is smacked down for the political based rulings. That is what happened the first time with this law.

    September 14, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  9. Johnny

    Yea, good news from Wisconsin! I'm surprised the special legislative session was upheld but I'm hopeful that will be challenged as well. Still it doesn't change the fact that Americans are waking up to the the selfish, dishonest Neo Con agenda and it continues to be exposed and crushed under the weight of democracy. Remember the promises during the last mid=terms that saw dirt like Walker gain power? Jobs, jobs, jobs was it? As soon as they got in the Tea Bags continued the attack on civil and collective rights instead of doing anything at all about jobs except continuing to ship them overseas while saying no to everything Obama did. It will be great in November when Obama wins despite the vote rigging and propaganda money spent to prop up Romney but not as nice as the next mid-terms when the Tea Party dies.

    September 14, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Gone are the days where the people can elect politicians have those politicians pass laws, have the politicians recalled on those laws and the people reaffirm their support for the politician and the laws passed without having the Lawyers try and overturn it.

    America used to be ruled by people.
    Now it seems its ruled by Lawyers

    September 14, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  11. imvotingforobama

    HAHAHA!!! In your face GOP!!

    September 14, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  12. Ed

    You know, our country could save a lot of time and effort and just do away with ALL voting, be it for public office or referendums, and just go directly to judges and have them tell us their opinions, whether based in law or just their political or social viewpoints, then make it law.
    So now we go on to the next higher court, then the next, etc, etc. Am I the only one getting really fed up with this crap?

    September 14, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  13. Tiger

    Jumps up and down, occasionally the system works!

    September 14, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  14. DanW

    This is good news. The rich and powerful are being enabled by the courts to spend as much as they want to promote anything they want. A little balance is in order.

    September 14, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  15. Rob

    The only way to beat union goons is to take the issue to the streets.

    September 14, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  16. George

    Another judge bought off.

    September 14, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  17. David

    Great day for the American Worker.

    September 14, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  18. julnor

    How nice of the court to rule against the will of the people.

    September 14, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  19. jim

    lol owned

    September 14, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  20. Fourleaf Tayback

    A complete Cheesedick...the judge...what a totally corrupt decision and the will of the people gets dashed again by some liberal chunk of crap.

    September 14, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  21. AK_steve

    You mean republicans tried passing an illegal bill? Hard to believe.

    Same goes for voter ID. So what if it discriminates against minorities, elderly and young people?

    If it is what's best for the nation then what's so bad about a little twist in the laws? It's the GOP – they're righteous.

    September 14, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  22. N0TaLIB

    Unions are destroying this country; moving the jobs overseas.
    Why is that so hard to understand?
    The unions are going to destroy their own lively hood.

    September 14, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  23. nautiusm

    And the activist judges strike again. Why is this continuing?? The fact that Walker was re-elected was tacit approval of the bill. Why do state employees feel like they don't have to contribute anything to their own retirement? This is a mockery of our justice system.

    September 14, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  24. DENNA

    Good for the judge. Listen up unions members: DO NOT VOTE FOR REPUBLICANS. They seriously don't like you because you cause trouble for their rich masters.

    September 14, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  25. Jorge Sedano

    a circuit judge.... guess it takes all kind...actually the people of that state just have their votes thrown out...

    September 14, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
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