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Posted by on Sep 15, 2012 in Economy, Law, Politics | 4 comments

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Loses a Big One

Think Progress had this good news yesterday evening:

Wisconsin Judge Juan Colas ruled that Governor Scott Walker’s (R-WI) law eliminating collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions was unconstitutional under both the Wisconsin and United States constitutions. The law, which does not save the state any money but crushes the political and economic influence of unions, has been in effect for roughly one year. It is unclear, per ABC’s reporting, whether union restrictions will be suspended immediately pending a likely Walker appeal. …TP

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Governor Walker is sure the decision will be overturned. We’ll see. The judge’s decision covers a lot of territory:

A spokesman for Wisconsin Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said, “We believe the law is constitutional. We’re in the middle of reviewing the decision, but we anticipate we’ll be appealing promptly.”

The lawsuit was brought by the city of Madison teachers’ union and the city of Milwaukee laborers’ union. It is not clear how the ruling will affect the rest of the state.

“This is huge, we are ecstatic,” said John Matthews, head of the teachers’ union. “Now, all the problems that the union was facing are gone.”

“Although the statutes do not prohibit speech or associational activities, the statutes do impose burdens on employees’ exercise of those rights,” Judge Colas wrote. Parts of the law “single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership…solely because of that association.”

The judge also ruled the law violated the constitutional right of equal protection, because it treats union employees differently than nonunion employees.

The collective-bargaining law bars the city of Milwaukee from paying some of its employees’ retirement contributions. The judge ruled that part of the law unconstitutionally intruded on Milwaukee’s right to govern itself and unconstitutionally broke an existing contract. ..WSJ

Slate quotes from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s report:

“The ruling means that, unless it is overturned on appeal, 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 questions about changes in pay, benefits and work rules that have taken place in the meantime while bargaining was essentially dead.” …MJS

Cross-posted from Prairie Weather

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  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    Thanks Prairie, the way you framed it is likely the way it is: Loses A Big One. It’s huge, and no doubt sends a shudder through at least two other governors, and any other governors who were thinking of piggy backing. My hunch is the taxpayers of Wisc are furious about the MILLIONS of dollars it is taking to defend the governor’s whim. Updating needed between management and workers, always, an eternal issue. Just not this governor’s way. Just my .02

  • Do not get too excited. It will be appealed, that appeal could change everything. I don’t know anything about Wisconsin, but there has been a distinct pattern in this country of lower courts siding with the people, but the higher-up the legal food change you go (appellate courts, superior courts, and the Supremes), the more likely you’ll get rightward rulings.

  • ProWife

    It seems pretty obvious that the rate of union member ship decline over the last thirty years, directly correlates with the stagnation of american wages during the same time frame. Welcome to WalMart.

  • slamfu

    I agree. Businesses don’t pay decent wages unless they are forced to. Unions have their flaws, and can certinaly over reach, but without them we have 10 year olds working 7 days a week in coal mines for less than minimum wage.

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