Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Collective Bargaining Reform Law
A Dane County judge has struck down most of Governor Scott Walker's collective bargaining reforms, setting up an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Judge Juan Colas, appointed by former Democratic governor Jim Doyle, issued a sweeping decision that eliminated almost all of Act 10's measures to loosen the grip on power of public unions. Specifically, Judge Colas:
Colas ruled that the law violated workers' constitutional rights to free speech, free association and equal representation under the law by capping union workers' raises but not those of their nonunion counterparts. The judge also ruled that the law violated the "home rule" clause of the state constitution by setting the contribution for City of Milwaukee employees to the city pension system rather than leaving it to the city and workers.
While state workers will remain covered under the law, local unions will be free to renegotiate contracts:
For now, it appears school districts and local officials will have to return to the bargaining table with their workers in a much more significant way. The decision raises a host of unanswered questions about the significant changes in pay, benefits and work rules that have taken place over the past year in schools and municipalities around the state while bargaining was essentially dead.
Under Walker's law, both state and local governments were prohibited from bargaining with their workers over anything besides a cost-of-living salary adjustment. Other issues, such as health benefits, pensions, workplace safety and other work rules, were strictly off limits.
For local workers, all those issues can now be bargained. The ruling also restored local unions' ability to reach so-called fair share deals that require all workers within a given bargaining unit to pay union dues, even if they choose not to join.
With cutbacks in education spending, local governments used the law to great effect to keep their budgets under control. Now, they will have to renegotiate with emboldened unions who, as they are proving in Chicago, don't care much if the government they are negotiating with is broke or not.
Governor Walker pointed out that the people have spoken on this matter and the judge is overturning the result of the recall election held last June:
"The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5th. Now, they are ready to move on. Sadly, a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backward and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the Legislature and the governor," Walker said in a statement.
Several other challenges to the law are working their way through the courts and will probably end up on the Supreme Court docket next year.