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. Paul

    Now, I'm no pundit, or some kind of authority on politics, but I believe this has now become something Walker can suck on.

    September 15, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  2. Anonymous

    I think these events is going to test Ryan and Romney. For example, if you want to cook a roast, you have to cook it for a couple of hours to eat. Like the economy and jobs it is going to take time to achieve. In other words, we do not a quick recovery like cooking popcorn in a microwave oven. Let's be real!

    September 15, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  3. enuff

    Having collective bargaining rights is not against the law. In fact, it is a RIGHT.

    September 15, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  4. Mark Bernadiner

    Unions and liberals became Nazi-style gangs with only one objective that is grab taxpayers money.

    September 15, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  5. maelstromscientist

    Lets just ignore the fact that the reason the state is bankrupt is the Unions. I'm sure the money will magically appear out of nowhere.

    September 15, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  6. Anonymous

    Wow, not surprising. The right always seems to think that government is too big and has too much power and in this case it does. To think that Gov. Walker can pass a law to end unions and silence the will of the people is mind blowing. Serves him right. Power to the people!!!

    September 15, 2012 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  7. zeyn2010

    Good, cause we don't want to rewind time 100s of years just so we remember why we needed unions in the first place!

    September 15, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  8. DClark

    Once again the people's will is ignored by liberal judges. The unions have lost twice with the governor so they play dirty (big surprise).

    September 15, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  9. mm

    Way to go!

    September 15, 2012 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  10. John Oboho

    "Rule of law",so beautiful,when might is tamed,and kept within its bounds.

    September 15, 2012 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  11. joel0903

    This one is going to go to the SC which should rule that bargaining for benefits (ie negotiating a contract) is not speech.

    September 15, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  12. joel0903

    Ultimately this will go to the SC, which will argue that negotiating a contract is NOT speech.

    September 15, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  13. AgrippaMT

    Bravo. This is the beginning of the end of efforts by right wing extremists like Scott Walker to deny Americans the right of free association and freedom of speech. Similar rulings will soon emerge in the other Republican ruled states that have adopted such obscene legislation.

    September 15, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  14. Frank

    Fine. Let the unions bankrupt the state. They can then all become homeless beggars in the parks of San Francisco where they ultimately belong.

    September 15, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  15. MinemanUT

    Although I am not a huge fan of unions, anytime one party or the other shoves legislation down the throat of the other its never a good thing. Just look at how Obamacare was passed in comparison to this law, both overreached and caused a lot of division. On the other hand everyone can see how some public labor unions have gotten out of control & everyone knows we needed to do something about healthcare costs.

    September 15, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  16. DM

    Just moving to the bottom, the recall election isn't Wisconsin saying they agree with him, it's the state still thinking his opponent is worse.

    September 15, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  17. Cowabunga

    Wow – Walker is STILL a jerk? Doesn't it wear off after a while?

    September 15, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  18. Laura - St Louis

    Hurray for Dane County Circuit Judge Juan B. Colas !

    September 15, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  19. Emil

    After watching the report of fire in a Pakistani Garment factory. I Was reminded of the triangle fire in Ny. The worker in any time or age needs representation. Without unions many of us would still be in sweatshops. Im glad this law was stripped. Its a victory for all. With the exception of the slave masters.

    September 15, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  20. RichS

    So now the unions are free to hold a gun to the state, metaphorically speaking, and the taxpayers have to foot the bill whether they go broke or not. City of Chicago just caved. They now have the most expensive baby sitters in the country. When is this going to end? Or, they can just lay off the teachers until they bring the budget into balance.

    September 15, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  21. Kman

    Sneaky Slimy Freaking Liberals, just like Obama

    September 15, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  22. OldSchool

    Fight on...

    September 15, 2012 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  23. Clark Nova

    Nice to see good finally triumph over evil. It happens so rarely in America these days.

    September 15, 2012 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  24. ken

    sanity prevails over rightwing extremism

    September 15, 2012 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  25. AmericanWaxwing

    I stand with Gov. Scott Walker and I hope they appeal this decision and keep up the good fight! End the corruption!

    September 15, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
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