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. IDontBelieveIt

    Considering that America brags about being the "most powerful nation on earth" – in reality you're a backward, medieval country with no idea of justice! [And half the country on benefits.]

    A law is passed and a PARTISAN Judge overturns it to suit his Party in election year !!!!!! So what this unprofessional Judge is doing is tailoring the LAW to suit his political beliefs? Only in America, folks!

    You have a failure of a President who can do no wrong because he's got a big smile – even though he can't do the job; you people are led by the Media who tell you what YOU think and produce rigged polls to help you decide. Strewth! You couldn't make it up!

    September 15, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  2. The man

    So as we all know, government employees should pay there "fair share" like the rest of the private sector wealthy people do.....

    September 15, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  3. Brian

    GO Vote!

    SO a judge can overturn it...

    September 15, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  4. larry west

    what they fail to mention, was wisconsin had a surplus this year, but walker immediatly gave 1370000000 in tax cuts the day he came to office. hence the budget shortfall.

    September 15, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  5. Ray Irizarry

    As a member of PATCO who lost his job as an air traffic controller in 1981 while exercising his right to free speech, and, until Bill Clinton was elected President, was denied any right of return, I wholeheartedly applaud Judge Colas' decision. Gov. Walker's actions, like President Reagan's were clearly an attempt to bust the union. Reagan succeeded; Walker didn't. I'm just glad the the dedicated and hard working public employees of Wisconsin did not have to wait more than ten years for relief – which, because of our age, never really came.

    September 15, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  6. Ian

    Excellent! Why should the government be able to stop prevent people from organizing? This law limited the personal freedoms of Wisconsin's public workers.

    Stop the government from meddling in people's lives. Support free speech and free assembly!

    September 15, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  7. Fourleaf Tayback

    It should be the goal of every American in their lifetime to BREAK UNIONS...we are better than that.

    September 15, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  8. M Gonzales

    Tossed out or not does not matter until it goes as far as it can in the judicial system.

    September 15, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  9. jingenthron

    So sad and naive. 20 Countrys raid our Embassys, and Americans are being killed, and all the great CNN can report as a headline is this. Un Freaking Real.

    September 15, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  10. marc

    i'm tired of all this union bull crap. our country goes through a recession and the teachers in our school district get a 3% raise every single year while most other people watching their pay stay the same or go down. the bad teachers get a raise no matter what and they can't be fired unless they break the law as long as they have been there for over 5 years. and then they have the nerve to demand the state pay for health care and pension benefits. worse of all, these losers are the ones teaching our children. instead of sitting around and expecting you get everything handed to you, why don't you go out and make something of yourself on your own. oh, wait, that's the small business spirit that creates millionaires and, apparently, this country looks down on highly successful people these days. well, it won't be long that i'll be taking my business, the jobs it creates and my millions of dollars to a country that actually rewards the hard working, independent, free thinkers instead of this welfare nation idealogy.

    September 15, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  11. Dr. Edson

    ah, yet another wetback decision. Senior Colas needs to re-patriate himself back to his home country and pull this same crap there... maybe a cartel will take him out for us.

    September 15, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  12. Doh

    Someone might want to be proactive and call an ambulance to the Fox studio. I have a feeling someone there might have a stroke soon.

    September 15, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  13. scranton

    .........and so it begins.

    September 15, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  14. toolkit 1

    Can someone explain to me why I go to great lengths make sure I get to the voting booth, whether it's the local, state or national level to get my opinion registered? Then when my effort to ensure my issue wins the day, I find out that some ambivalent shyster, some liberal judge, or some whiny malcontent can have my voting effort thrown into the nearest trash dumpster merely by signing a court docket. Voting is supposed to be the way laws are legislated in this country, not by throwing a tantrum and tieing up the court system with frivolous, counter-productive litigation.

    September 15, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  15. Bucko

    Go WALKER! As grandpa always said: Unions are a mask for incompetency!

    September 15, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  16. Vendella

    Calling a judge a liberal activist for ruling against him? I think the Governor has completely forgotten the rules of the game. When Walker survived the recall it was more because people didn't think a recall was the correct way to deal with the problem. It doesn't mean that the majority agreed with the legislation. Walker is an empty shell who will say anything. He is the personification of "the ends justifies the means".

    September 15, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  17. Geaorge

    A giant leap backwards.

    There was a time when unions were needed. When the likes of J.P.Morgan ruled with an iron first and the worker was little more than cannon fodder. Now the pendulum has swung the other way. The unions have become way too powerful and have hobbled management, stifled innovation, and have made it almost impossible to compete on the world market.

    When $2000 of the price for a new auto out of Detroit is due to the stranglehold the unions have over management; of course i am going to buy a lower priced, higher quality car from over seas. If the unions are not reined in we can expect higher prices and more jobs shifting over seas. They don't want to face one simple fact ... compete or sink.

    September 15, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  18. FubarObama

    The unions are drug of choice of the those not willing to work

    September 15, 2012 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  19. James

    Will be overturned on appeal without a doubt

    September 15, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  20. Truth

    The fact that no one has commented means no one cares!

    September 15, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  21. Dennis

    I remember very recently of people posting on this subject and demonizing organized union labor unions and how this was the beginning of the end of them and of what was to come for President Obama in the 2012 elections.Well,we can see a different outcome of things in regards to the demise of unions and the upcoming elections.That smug Gov.Walker figured it was all in the bag at that point.How does it feel now?...Get used to it.It is about to happen again in the Nov.elections.Since Romney embraced Walker in making his selfish and thoughtless decision,Walker can console Romney and Ryan alike after the elections and pick up the pieces of defeat to try again in 2016.Better luck next time fellas!

    September 15, 2012 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  22. AZWarrior

    I can find a judge that thinks it is OK to run naked through a convent. No big victory for the socialists. Will be overturned by the next sane judge.

    September 15, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  23. T in Dallas

    GOP house of cards starting to tumble...

    September 15, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  24. Michael

    Well,this victory is probably going to be short lived, after this wing nuts appeal aconservative court will probably rule against this decision. All I can say is remember GWB's election, repuglicans will hook, crook, deceive, mislead, misrepresent, dismember, lie, cheat, steal, or con to achieve their ends! JUST LOOK AT OUR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ROBME AND LYIN RYAN THE TRUTHLESS DUAL!

    September 15, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  25. Jake

    Dear Government Sector Parasites -

    When you come for the money, it will all be gone. My deepest condolences on being far too benighted to realize that painful fact.

    Kind regards,

    The Taxpayers

    September 15, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
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