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. Anonymous

    Big victory for hard working Americans – big loss for GOP

    September 14, 2012 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  2. Bill

    So public employee unions can singlehandedly bankrupt the states, and the states can't do anything about it? Seems fair.

    September 14, 2012 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  3. NamePat

    Another GOP piece of dog feces....Scott Walker. I can't wait til November to see that entire party crash and burn.

    September 14, 2012 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  4. keeth

    Walker's law did not restrict ALL unions. Hmmm...

    September 14, 2012 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  5. Emmittkitty

    Victory for public employees! Defeat for Walker!

    September 14, 2012 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  6. Bob Knippel

    Collective bargaining has certainly had it's place in the past, when employers often exploited laborers as if they were slaves. More recently, however, in a complete reversal, collective bargaining has saddled employers with ever increasing costs associated with having employees, often forcing employers into serious financial trouble as a consequence. Government workers who enjoy six weeks of vacation per year in a world in which the general population might get a couple of weeks at most are sucking blood from publicly funded tax coffers. The problem is not collective bargaining in and of itself, but the ridiculous level to which collective bargaining has pushed employee demands in an ever tightening financial market. Strangling business or government with unrealistic employee liabilities in a floundering economy is turning a blind eye to the present reality of State, National and Global economic hardship.

    September 14, 2012 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  7. J

    WOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

    September 14, 2012 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  8. skog

    Another Dirt ball judge trying to arrogantly rule from the bench.

    September 14, 2012 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  9. tony

    Funny how the returning to a long established status quo is a liberal activism in Wisconsin, while the "rape by ultrasound probe" for women wanting abortion is a supposed proper process in states like Mississippi. This period of right-wing despotism is going to end up characterizing the early 21st Century US in the history books, like the "charleston" labeled the twenties.

    September 14, 2012 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  10. calvin

    Gov. Walker is a republican...he doesn't care about, and can't relate to, the middle class. What I don't get, however, is how this guy got reelected during the recall vote. WI must be a republican state with many wealthy folks.

    September 14, 2012 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  11. 0rangeW3dge

    Oh Well ~ ~ ~

    Walker will just have to "Walk It Back" like the rest of his Party does

    September 14, 2012 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  12. Eric Williams

    Unions are more corrupt than politicians.

    September 14, 2012 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  13. Ed

    Another liberal judge.

    September 14, 2012 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  14. NyteShayde

    Good.

    That is all.

    September 14, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  15. Mark

    This will be overuled by an appeal almost immediately. Yet another liberal judge legislating from the bench. Pathetic.

    September 14, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  16. Wayne

    Enjoy your higher taxes homeowners- somebody has to provide the money for this. The Easter Bunny doesn't bring it for free,

    September 14, 2012 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  17. Joe

    first! lol. im a troll.

    September 14, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  18. Peter Shaw

    Big blow for Scot Walker and his anti-social friends...

    September 14, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  19. Thump

    Whoops. So right-wingers what will it be? Sacrifice the 1st Amendment or bust those labor unions?

    September 14, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  20. Robert

    "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."

    Oh come on. Can't we move beyond name calling and start acting like adults – "liberal activist judge". I am getting sick of the immature nature of our elected officials!

    September 14, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  21. JoJo

    I never liked unions very much, but I prefer them over these extreme right-wing militaristic plutocrats that are taking over the country.

    September 14, 2012 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  22. aaron

    Hilarious. The billionaire Koch brothers and their lacky Walker find out the reason for the 3 branches of government. Too bad that CNN can't be responsible and note that the WI budget deficit was caused by Walker, obviously at the direction of his Koch brothers handlers, cutting taxes on the rich. That's what really made the unions irate since their members were supposed to pay for the rich tax cuts.

    September 14, 2012 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Great win for the 99%. The US needs a Labor party since the Democrats have gone to bed with big business.

    September 14, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  24. DuffB

    I should've gone to law school. I knew that this would be overturned because it a) restricts free speech and b) restricts association.

    September 14, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  25. I am God

    Liberal judge? Walker please shut up. You are just as embarrassing as Romney when he made the ridiculous statement that Obama apologized. The judge is a judge and he must follow the laws. I'm surprised you attack this judge and not attack your fellow Republican judge in the Supreme Court who passed Obamacare. What the heck is with that Walker.

    September 14, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
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