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. martin

    Americans only have a couple of ways to organize for their own good. One way is joining a political party, but it seems like more and more the people we vote for come under the thrall of lobbyists and moneyed interests. The other way is by joining a union. And unions have been under attack since labor first tried to organize. First, sheer violence was used against them. Then they were labeled communists and gangsters and lazy and un-American. When none of that worked, corporations simply outsourced union jobs. Fortunately, we can't outsource government jobs.

    September 14, 2012 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  2. Conrad Murray

    "Boom. Roasted." -Michael Scott

    September 14, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  3. penny wright

    Scott Walker is a disgrace to America.

    September 14, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  4. Trace

    The judge going against the will of the people should be tossed

    September 14, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  5. josh rogen

    it really isn't hard to find a judge to rule in your favor if your a democrat. they tend to stick together.

    September 14, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  6. marty rogers


    September 14, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  7. roger

    Do public sector workers work for the people of the state, or are the people of the state supplicants to public sector unions? Greece, Italy and the rest of disfunctional, bankrupt and decaying Europe, here we come!

    September 14, 2012 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  8. LiLa

    Scott Walker's wings have been clipped. It couldn't have happened to a more deserving fellow.

    September 14, 2012 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  9. sean74cnn

    We used to love our kids so much that we built their schools to be bomb shelters. Now we use teachers as a scapegoat for our own lack of enthusiasm for our children's educations.

    Teachers cannot teach your stup1d children if you do not encourage your children to learn!

    September 14, 2012 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  10. Bman

    I'm not too sad to say, cops and firefighters need to eat some humble pie. It's been one solid decade at the gravy trough for them and we have nothing to show for it. Rail, Wind, Water, Solar, Bridges and Highway infrastructure is the priority now.

    September 14, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  11. JLMZEN

    Proud to be a MMSD teacher and proud of this decision!

    September 14, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  12. Florida Dude

    I understand the need to close the budget shortfall but to strong-arm the union out of existence is politically motivated and just goes way too far. The court is right on this one.

    September 14, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  13. headjazzer

    Why the fuxk even bother to vote! They will just change it to whatever they want anyhow!
    That is not Democracy! This is Animal Farm!

    September 14, 2012 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  14. geraldhintlian

    Surprise, surprise. A liberal ACLU Democrook judge has ruled that the legislature has no right to control spending of the taxpayers money! Well I'll be, fancy that.

    September 14, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  15. Lana

    Sure County Circuit Judge Juan B. Colas tossed the Wisconsin collective bargaining law. Judge Juan B. Colas is a public employee and he’s probably worried that his guaranteed yearly raises and cost of living salary adjustments, guaranteed health care package, and guaranteed retirement package might be jeopardized by such laws.
    In the real world of private sector employment the employees do not receive these guaranteed benefits and perks. We don’t get a guaranteed raise or cost of living adjustment, and our retirement is self-funded by 401K contributions.
    It’s time for the public employees to stop being so greedy. It’s time for the taxpayers from the private sector to demand reform to halt the outrageous perks and benefit packages bestowed upon the public sector employees.

    September 14, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  16. Gary

    Wow.At least there's 1 judge that the Koch brothers and Walker couldn't buy.

    September 14, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  17. Legion od Doom

    This is bull, ur going backwards by throwing out the collective bargaining rights that were fought so hard for, shame on u,,,

    September 14, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  18. Solitaire

    Yea!!! At last! Hooray!!!! Bite me guv.

    September 14, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  19. Jose

    Yep, outlaw unions, yet corporations have the same rights as citizens when it comes to elections. Someone tell me there's no bias there.

    September 14, 2012 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    This Judge is allready a shame with the Mortgage Fraud of Anchor Bank now he tries to steal millions of Wisconsin voters results with one ruling sounds like DemonicRatribution for losing the RECALL nothing but sour grapes. What are they going to do when O'bummer loses the WH and Reid Loses the Senate. Nuke Las Vega?

    September 14, 2012 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  21. jen

    I guess walker doesn't understand the point of the 3 branches or the system of checks and balances....

    September 14, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  22. Lisa P

    By the way, the $137 million budget hole that this article claims Act 10 was supposed to fill is really small potatoes compared to the real purpose of Act 10 - to provide cover for an unconscionable $1.6 billion cut in state aid to local schools, and a similar amount in aid to local governments. The idea was that if teachers and local government workers didn't have bargaining rights then the whole cut - or as much as local officials thought they could get away with - could be foisted off on them. And just to be sure that happened, Gov. Walker and his rubber-stamp Legislature limited how much local governments could raise taxes without going to referendum. Nice, huh? And you wonder why our economy in WI isn't recovering, and businesses are fleeing the state. $137 million was just the hit on State workers, not the total hit on public sector workers throughout the State that was enabled by Act 10; that was closer to $3 billion.

    September 14, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  23. dc

    What is the point of elections, discussions, laws, etc., if a liberal judges can change it all to the world they want. This is worse than Executive Orders!

    September 14, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  24. Legion of Doom

    opps me bad read that wrong, way to go for the Unions

    Local 649 Saskatchewan

    September 14, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  25. Gary

    There was a whole lot more money from the right wing than money from unions.It's amazing that CNN always has to even things out between the right and left when the TRUTH is the Koch brothers and right wing spent a lot more than the left.

    September 14, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
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