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. Bart

    It's very simple. If an individual person has a right to say "I will come and work for you if you pay me X and give me benefits A, B and C" , the people in unions have the exact same rights to say the same thing. Sorry for those who hate unions, but it truly is this simple.

    September 14, 2012 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  2. Jane

    This is a good sign that perhaps not all the barbarians are getting through the gate anymore.

    September 14, 2012 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  3. Meki60

    boy, you just cannot get away from the corruption of the democrats

    September 14, 2012 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  4. bergus

    greed prevails...

    September 14, 2012 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  5. Mop

    Shot down in flames.

    September 14, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  6. D.L. Kisting

    It looks like the Unions "bought the judge". They'd sell their souls for a million or so.

    September 14, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  7. Tommy

    I hate to say I told you so, but this law was nothing more than political payback and should be overturned.

    September 14, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  8. betterdays

    What a ridiculous country I live in. The past two years have been one tragic decision after another. This bears little resemblance to the great place I remember so vividly. And the worst part of it: Regardless of what any politician says (including third, fourth, fifth parties or what have you), the country is irretrievable.

    So sad.

    September 14, 2012 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  9. Lee-Anne

    Well, this won't last. Once again a Dane County judge is trying to change the narrative. It won't last under appeal. For anyone that has lived in Madison, WI, understand that judges are elected and any judge that doesn't do what the liberal city of Madison wants, will not be re-elected. As much as people get mad at government appointed judges, the reality is that a judge that lives on re-election, will not follow the law but will see the law in such a way as to make sure they get re-elected.

    September 14, 2012 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  10. mikeo

    Why can't these 'Reporters' use good English? Their incomplete sentences show either profound ignorance or they just don't care.

    "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. "

    September 14, 2012 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  11. Triple A

    Go figure, the majority want this, well we can't have that we have to have the Democratic way... our way or no way to heck with the popular vots. Liberals...pttts

    September 14, 2012 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  12. Bill

    United we stand, divided we fall Bono Animo Esto

    September 14, 2012 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  13. yoyoma

    The republican power grab is crumbling. They have effectively ended their party by siding with the extremist teabaggers. Now there is a chance for a multi-party system. They have gone sooo right, moderates look liberal. Now to exterminate the far right fringe. beware rove, norquist, cantor, ryan, limbaugh, o'reilly. Your party is dead come November. Maybe some moderates can make their way back onto the ticket.

    September 14, 2012 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  14. snowdogg

    The right-wingers are gonna be P _ _ _ _ _ !

    September 14, 2012 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  15. Andrew

    Walker wants more rights for corporations but less rights for individuals and small people.
    Walker received almost 20:1 Out of state corporation contributions and still only slightly won against an OK mayor of Milwaukee!

    September 14, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  16. banditb17

    we knew this would be a hurdle. This is no surprise. The law will be upheld.

    September 14, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  17. C.B

    Congrats to Wis. state workers!!! Michigan state workers support you 100%. We are dealing with similar violations by the government here!!!

    September 14, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  18. buzz

    While I believe this law was a bunch of bs, walking out on students is equally bogus

    September 14, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  19. ericgoestoholland

    Don't you love it when our politicians refer to the "the people" only when meaning "the people that agree with me"

    September 14, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  20. RGD

    Scott Walker should negotiate with unions instead of that stupid and illegal law. Look at how Chicago teachers were able to work out differences in contract dispute with mayor and city in less than a week as compared to state of Wisconsin's struggle since January, 2011 with all those protests, recall election, lawsuits, etc. wasting millions of $$$$. GOP's "my way or highway" mentality will be their downfall this election.

    September 14, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  21. cja

    One good thing about the US is that we are NOT a place where "majority rules" It does not matter if 90% of the people vote to remove your right to free association and speech you still have that right.

    What next the voters pass a "bill of attainer"? For good reason the majority is prevented from these things.

    September 14, 2012 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  22. Retry

    Time to privatize the police

    September 14, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  23. By a mobile device. Unable to fix (error code 90). HELP

    Thanx.

    September 14, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  24. rednaxelat

    In the words of the immortal Woody Guthrie: "all you fascists gonna lose". Oh it's sweet to see the bullies get a good beating every once in a while.

    September 14, 2012 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  25. GI Joe

    I'm getting LDS advertising on Facebook. I mark it offensive and another one pops up. I WILL NOT JOIN THAT CULT. STOP IT.

    Virginia republican women are organizing against Ryan/Akin/Cucu/Romney and their stances on women's health. A lot going on folks.

    Things are looking good tho.

    24 days to early voting in some states.

    obama/biden 2012-2016 for an intelligent, level-headed approach in these times of turmoil and hate.

    September 14, 2012 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
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