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. dubrats

    It requires most state workers to pay more for their pension and health insurance, and it limits pay raises.

    and this is a bad thing???....it's our tax $$ and we are broke....now the union thugs get to keep bleeding the middle class dry....when did we americans become so stupid?

    September 15, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  2. Gregory

    Conservatives have wasted so much time and money on these laws that have little or no chance of passing. Conservatives are doing more damage to this country than Osama Bin Laden ever dreamed of.

    September 15, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  3. Marie MD

    We must all remember that 5 days work with weekends off, ot pay and paid vacations and pay for actual work done to name a few things is all thanks to unions.
    We are maybe doing more at present but still. . .

    September 15, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  4. Dave - Phx

    More Republican laws struck down.

    September 15, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  5. Country Concerned

    Just another union owned judge. Capone would be proud.

    September 15, 2012 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  6. larry5

    It's off the the appellate court. Generally speaking the citizens choice at the ballot box is acceptable but only if they agree with the liberals. Otherwise it's off to the court for the liberals where the liberal judges are their friends. This kind of cycle will continue to work as long as there are enough white people working in the private sector to pay the bills. Obama is narrowing the gap every day just as fast as he can, especially leading up to the election.

    September 15, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  7. larry5


    September 15, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  8. Don

    $13,000,000.00 and counting. That is what the Wisconsin Teachers Union has cost me a taxpayer in Wisconsin. Now we can expect even more expense in the appeal of some ignorant judge in Madison. Yes, thanks teachers I hope your kids are being taught to be better citizens than you are with my tax money.

    September 15, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  9. JW

    You can bet that the Koch brothers are not done using their puppet Walker to try to steal more rights from public workers. The millionaires will spend their money trying to take away rights of the middle class all day long but won't spend there money for anything to further the country or to create jobs. Elect Republicans that want to take from the middle class and give to the wealthy.

    September 15, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  10. Craig

    If governments can not curtail the bribe money that was promised through public sector union contracts then we are on a one way path to financial ruin. This judge just sounded the death knell with his ruling.

    September 15, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  11. snowboarder

    i struggle with the issue of unions and especially collective bargaining.

    somehow we need to strike a balance between unions and corporations.

    September 15, 2012 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  12. Kate

    Uhm, this is kind of a big deal. Why isn't this a bigger headline?

    September 15, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  13. Concerned Citizen

    It's about time. That law is illegal to it's core.

    September 15, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  14. Union Thuggery

    A couple rules need to be applied to unions nation-wide. First, if I don't want to join a union and cut them a % of my pay check, I shouldn't have to. Second, if workers go on strike, any city or corporation should have the right to replace them with equally qualified employees.

    September 15, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  15. Charles

    Judges are destroying this country faster than Obama is.

    September 15, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  16. Andrew


    September 15, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  17. 1byrd

    Good. Collective bargaining involves hard negotiating, but legal bullying and rigged games just doesn't work...... Walker wasn't looking to balance a budget – he sought to cripple a group that he saw voting consistently for the Democratic party. Yet another method of Gerrymandering.... Moe-ron....

    September 15, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  18. Chuck

    It's about time!

    September 15, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  19. sbul

    If corporations are people then unions are people too! Come on Scott you can't have it both ways. The only reason he was able to win his recall election was the backing of big corporations and the supremes opinion that corporations are people.

    September 15, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  20. Kris

    Why does CNN cover this legal battle, which really means nothing to most of us, while ignoring Hedges v. U.S., which may affect us all?

    September 15, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  21. GI Joe

    Romney called his friend BiBi to find out what he should say -- just like he said he would in the primaries.

    Vote all republicans out. They want us at war in every country in the world.

    September 15, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  22. Www

    Stupid judge

    September 15, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  23. Bobby Ray

    Hurray for the Good Guys. Walker passed Act 10 to cover up his theft of the shared revenue funds that belonged to school districts. He then passed those funds to his corporate donors. Act 10 did not lower the tax burden for the citizens of Wisconsin, it merely passed the structural debt down the road and again rewarded Walker's contributors.

    September 15, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  24. kathy/Minnesota

    When will those who have so much, finally get......it is not such a great thing to take from those with the least? GET OVER YOURSELF WALKER.

    September 15, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  25. plain&simple

    So republicans cry about having free speech in regards to some movie that triggers violence all over the world,then make laws to restrict it at home? Sounds like how republicans want democracy all around the world,then want to restrict who votes at home! Anyone see a common thread here?

    September 15, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
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