Law Enforcement Union Sues Gov. Walker
MADISON, Wisc. (CN) - A law enforcement union claims in court that sections of Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair" bill that a state judge declared unconstitutional for teachers and municipal workers are unconstitutional for law enforcement as well.
The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association sued Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, in Dane County Court.
Walker's anti-union bill, which inspired copycat legislation around the country, essentially split state law enforcement into two. State troopers were exempted from its attacks upon collective bargaining, but DMV field agents and members of the Capitol and University of Wisconsin police forces were not.
In its complaint, the law enforcement union claims that provisions of the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, as modified by the 2011 Wisconsin Act 32, violate state workers' constitutional rights to association, speech, petition and advocacy.
State troopers and motor vehicle inspectors were exempted from the anti-union law, but University of Wisconsin officers, Capitol police and Department of Transportation field agents were not.
Joining as plaintiffs are two police officers and a field agent with the Department of Transportation's Division of Motor Vehicles.
The lawsuit comes less than two months after a Dane County judge found Act 10 unconstitutional as it applies to school district and local government workers.
That ruling, which the Wisconsin attorney general has appealed, came in a case filed by Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI). Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas' ruling applied only to municipal employers, employees and their unions.
Colas found that the provisions of Act 10 that restrict collective bargaining, limit the right to deduct dues for general employee unions, to seek and receive wage increases above the cost of living, and restrict "fair share" agreements and certification violate employees' rights of free speech, association, and equal protection.
Act 10 also required workers to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits, which Walker said was necessary to fill a $3.6 billion budget gap.
In addition to constitutional violations, Colas ruled that the law created separate classes of public workers, who are treated differently and unequally.
The Law Enforcement Association said in a statement: "Prior to Act 10 being implemented, employees in the WLEA included state troopers and inspectors who kept their union rights, as well as Capitol and UW police officers and detectives, DMV field agents and police communication officers, all of whom lost their bargaining rights. Before Act 10, all those employees were in the WLEA law enforcement bargaining unit. With the implementation of Act 10, state troopers and inspectors were carved out of the unit and a new class was created called 'public safety' employees."
In its complaint, the union says Act 10 required the complete reorganization of the WLEA: one group consisting solely of state troopers and inspectors (public safety) and the remaining group (law enforcement).
Only law-enforcement employees were subjected to the anti-union law's "onerous and punitive" provisions, the complaint states.
The union said in its statement: "Act 10 was especially destructive to the WLEA. It fractured the union and the solidarity of its members, undermining their ability to join together and advocate for the best conditions to keep Wisconsin roads and communities safe. During the early 2011 daily demonstrations at the Capitol, Capitol Police, state troopers and UW police officers worked side by side, day after day, performing the same duties, yet, they were aware that only the troopers were selected for special treatment by Walker and the Legislature. Differing treatment by state agencies toward all hard-working state employees without valid reason and the loss of rights for some of its members led the WLEA to try to regain those rights and equal treatment for all its members and other state employees."
The complaint states: "In sum, the effect of Act 10 and Act 32 is to undermine and severely impede the ability of general employees and their collective bargaining agents to form and maintain their associations and to engage collectively in protected associational, speech, petition, and advocacy activities, in violation ... of the Wisconsin Constitution."
The WLEA says the burdens of the law "were the result of Gov. Walker's and the Legislature's motive to stifle and retaliate against public employee unions."
The WLEA is represented by Sally Stix.
Wisconsin Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck wrote in an email to the University of Wisconsin student newspaper, The Badger Herald: "We believe Act 10 is constitutional and that we'll ultimately prevail."