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. spinrbait

    so people who work in the private sector are now slaves to the people who work in public sector. kids, forget college, you need to try and get a job at the dept. of transportation.

    September 15, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  2. Zoey

    Yippppeeeee! Finally a circuit court judge has the b a l l s to stand up to Scott Walker a.k.a. The Koch brothers.

    September 15, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  3. CTed

    If corporations are people then unions are people....

    September 15, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  4. ArchieDeBunker

    What's the problem, CNN? My comment didn't meet with the censor's approval, so it doesn't get posted? B. S. !

    September 15, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  5. Bazoing

    Unions can get out of hand, but they help balance huge corporations. Even though in this case they push state working conditions and pay up, that has a spin off for everyone. We neither need to destroy unions or to go back to the insanity of the early 1950S. Right now everyone seems to be bent on destroying unions.

    September 15, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  6. Desmond, a Canadian


    September 15, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  7. Lyla M

    Too bad they didn't toss Walker with it. Wake up people of WI, you've been duped.

    September 15, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  8. Dave

    Good! Unions built America. Hopefully, a good riddance to Walker, too. Love watching the KOCH BROTHERS waste their money.

    September 15, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  9. Lawless4U

    While I applaud the decision of the judge, I think he erred in his opinion. The law CLEARLY violated the legislature's rules for a qourum. A simple majority was all that was needed to vote on non budgetary issues. However this was clearly a budget issue so a qourum was needed which they didn't have because the democratic senators were here in Illinois.

    At any rate, I think we all know that this will wind up before the US Supreme Court eventually.

    September 15, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. bob_lawbla

    Once again, progressive liberals prove how idiotic they really are. The union twits file a lawsuit to overturn common sense.

    September 15, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  11. t3chsupport

    If it's someone who disagrees with them, they're always 'liberal activists', regardless of their history or who appointed them.

    September 15, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  12. Tre

    The law did not silence the unions, and therefore did not have any impact on the free speech rights of the union. Th law limited the ACTIONS of the union not their speech. This misguided judge will be overturned.

    September 15, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  13. Bryan

    Awww I'm sorry Mr. Walker, did you lose your right to bully state employees? That's too bad, but hey cheer up, I'm sure there are plenty of other middle class or minority groups you can go beat up on.

    September 15, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. dd

    What the heck is going on. The people are being screwed by unions. Does this judge want a revolution. The US revolted against Britain for tyranny.

    September 15, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  15. Robert

    Wisconsin, the rest of us will now watch as you continue your slide into bankruptcy. Thank your liberals.

    September 15, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  16. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    If the WI supreme court overturns the ruling, Wisconsin will join other places with no unions or bargaining rights: Afghanistan, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas.

    September 15, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  17. Pete

    Remember Wisconsin who really helps you,the states public sector employees or that fascist Scott Walker.You most certainly can't have the governor come out for your garbage,teach your kids or protect your life or property can yah!!Is he going to put out that fire,fix the street lights,I think not so before you go running your ignorent rightwing Wisconsin mouths think twice about your life in Wisconsin as residents depend on it,at least more livable don't you think!!Governors come and go ,your states employees are here to stay to serve you,remember that!!

    September 15, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  18. Todd

    Obama care is upeheld and Walker care is tossed out...sounds like our judicial system is working just fine

    September 15, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. Mark J

    Could it not then be said that the term "activist judges" would also apply to those Supremist Court judges who in the majority ruled in favor of unlimited campaign spending in the Citizens United case?

    September 15, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  20. craig

    Activist judge....so many nowadays

    September 15, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  21. Bryan

    The people of Wisconsin spoke. 1 activist judge should not be rewriting the laws.

    Gov Walker is trying to return his state to prosperity by enacting union reforms and this happens. Unbelievable. I guess we should all sit back and continue to accept the fleecing of American taxpayers by public unions.

    September 15, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  22. geckopelli


    September 15, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  23. herrick9

    It was sill stupid and draconian legislation in the first place...
    Classics GOP over-reach with regard to anything " union."
    Kinda hoping someone sends a hugs and kisses note to Sen. DeMint down in SC too.

    September 15, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  24. Dr Bix

    The majority of the taxpayers who are their employers have voted for this by re-electing Walker. Now they ALL should be fired!

    September 15, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  25. Tired

    HaHa, they never quit. No matter how the libs lose they just keep coming. Let's see, bring a case in the most liberal county in America. Thank God we still have a state supreme court to end all this. They already ruled on it once.

    Take the unions and the lawyers out of the Democrat party and they have nothing. No one else agrees with them.

    September 15, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
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