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. Larry

    As I understand it, the statute does not prohibit workers from joining discussion clubs; it merely provides that the government is not obliged to bargain with those clubs.

    September 15, 2012 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  2. Doug

    A good day for the people of Wisconsin.. If not for unions everyone in the country would be working for peanuts... Unions paved the way for a better work environment as well as how long the work week should be, what is considered over time and of course paid health care.. When we allow a Republican governor to remove those rights we are stepping back to the stone ages.. I'm happy a judge ( of course Scott would call him liberal ) had the plain sense and decency to strike this law..
    Shame on the people of Wisconsin for not throwing Scott out of office..

    September 15, 2012 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  3. Jessica

    "Sadly a liberal activist judge" = A Judge that ruled in a way that is not what Walker wanted the verdict to be.

    September 15, 2012 02:39 am at 2:39 am |
  4. mike

    this is unreal,,unions want to run over everyone,,as i have said befor,,they will stop at nothing to get their way,,no matter who gets hurt in the process,,they bull and intiminate who ever they can,,i see this all the time,,when will americans wake up,,after they have taken everything from you,,and you lose the rest,,while they still live high on the hog,,there is no doubt youre feeling this now,,it can and will get worse if you let these bullies keep trying to run everyone out of a job..fight back america,,while you still can,,look at the union lover in the white house,,you still want america to be run like this,,it wont be the over seas embasseys being destroyed,,they will distroy america also

    September 15, 2012 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  5. puckles

    ban the ho-mos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 15, 2012 03:21 am at 3:21 am |
  6. Steve

    As greedy as unions can be, I'd rather trust the workers than the politicians any day.

    September 15, 2012 03:21 am at 3:21 am |
  7. Anthony Chadwell

    Government is taking away peoples freedoms and rights? Yea, I'll believe that when the sky turns blue :) FIRST!!!

    September 15, 2012 03:55 am at 3:55 am |
  8. mistamista

    Undeniable proof, that even in Wisconsin logic and intelligence will prevail. Thanks for remembering the laws of the land Wisconsin. Once the state is done with this clown, I hope they make an example out of him and bury him neck-deep in his own stupidity by voting him so far out of office that he won't be able to communicate without a satellite phone. Done, and done!

    September 15, 2012 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  9. shawn l

    The right decision.

    September 15, 2012 04:47 am at 4:47 am |
  10. David

    Thanks, activist judge, Not.

    September 15, 2012 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  11. usuckwalker

    Suck on this scott walker.

    September 15, 2012 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  12. joesmith

    we wonder sometimes, how judges are either, elected, or appointed..clearly, a majority of the people of Wisconsin provided the impodus for these changes to take place..perhaps the judge needs a lesson in law himself..better yet, his decisions on other cases need to be reviewed..

    September 15, 2012 05:43 am at 5:43 am |
  13. Geoff

    Scott Walker and his supporters should never be referred to as "Americans." They are no better than al Qaida terrorists, except without the violence.

    September 15, 2012 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  14. dahdit

    Apparently the party of 'freedom from government' only grants that right to financial backers. You are only allowed the liberties you pay for.

    September 15, 2012 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  15. Siesta Beach

    Wisconsin is a really screwed up state. Hopefully many of the teachers will move to states that appreciate them.

    September 15, 2012 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  16. Squigman

    Be careful, you'll rile the likes of Walker, or worse a tea party half-wit.

    September 15, 2012 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  17. Mike

    Tyranny of the lying cheating stealing majority will not last forever.

    September 15, 2012 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  18. anamerican

    These judges have power, but are not qualified to make these decisions. How does 3 years of law school (online?) qualify this one, single individual to make these decisions which roll counter to the legislature. No-one talked about voter fraud, so how does this judge qualify himself to make this decision. This reeks of mob (union) corruption

    September 15, 2012 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  19. Cortanis

    Ironic, he hailed his clinging to his office and this law as a win. Now it's essentually being shot down in court as far as the law goes. It's going to be rather hard for him to get around this one I think.

    September 15, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  20. Dave

    We cannot tolerate the ignorance of people like Walker who jump on the "blame the unions" band wagon when the real fault of this economy lies with Congress and big banks buying influence in Washington. Stand together brothers and sisters to save your dignity and honor.

    September 15, 2012 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  21. charlesName

    Thank u judge!!! We need our unions to stop cheap & child labor. Good job.

    September 15, 2012 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  22. .

    A minor setback by a liberal activist judge. It'll be reinstated on the first appellate go-round.

    September 15, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  23. flashrob

    I posted this when this "first became an issue." THIS GETS TO THE "HEART OF THE MATTER" with respect to BOTH sides in the dispute...SEE WHERE THE REAL PROBLEM LIES...not only for "Wisconsin" BUT FOR MOST OF OUR STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS...

    ...IT'S TIME TO "FRY THESE POLITICIANS" and MAKE THEM "ADDRESS AND RESPOND" to WHAT'S REALLY "BEHIND THESE ISSUES!"

    http://dimestop.com/wisconsin.html

    FLASHROB

    September 15, 2012 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  24. tomasina

    Oh what horrible timing. This will surely further unite all Wisconsin people against the unions and those in favor of the law .... just before the elections. It will turn Wisconsin to a red state without doubt. That idiot Judge, aand the politicians from Justice Dept who forced his hand, have no idea what they just did. People here in Wisconsin are already saying: "The people voted TWICE and passed this law. Who does this jerk think he is ?" Stupid move.

    September 15, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  25. tomasina

    Let's not forget .... we had some great looking protests against Walker this past year, but we got so many of those demonstrators to join us from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Indiana. We will not be able to use their votes in November and this Judge's move will alienate those repubs that might otherwiase have stayed home on election night.

    September 15, 2012 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
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