Judge Kills Wisconsin’s|Union-Busting Bill

     MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – A state judge on Friday struck down Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union Budget Repair Bill, finding it unconstitutionally created separate classes of state workers, who are treated differently and unequally.
     In a 27-page ruling, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan B. Colas found that 2011 Wisconsin Acts 10 and 32 “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.”
     Walker’s Act 10 set off statewide protests and recall elections, and then nationwide copycat legislation. The bill stripped public workers’ unions of the power to negotiate anything but salary, and made it harder for them to retain certification – except for state patrol troopers and state patrol inspectors, who tend to vote Republican.
     Unions representing 4,000 Madison public school teachers and 300 Milwaukee sanitation workers sued Walker and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in Dane County Court in August 2011.
     The unions said the bill made changes that “interfere with their associational rights by imposing burdens and penalties” because they are part of a union.
     Judge Colas agreed, finding, “the state has imposed significant and burdensome restrictions on employees who choose to associate in a labor organization,” in violation of their rights of free speech and association guaranteed under the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions.
     “These are fundamental rights and the infringement having been shown, the burden shifts to the defendants to establish that the harm done to the constitutional right is outweighed by the evil it seeks to prevent,” Colas wrote.
     Colas ruled that Walker and the Commission offered “no evidence or argument of the substantial evil the government seeks to prevent.”
     He found that without evidence of the alleged evils of the bargaining system, “the court must find the infringement to be excessive and to violate the constitutional rights of free speech and association.”
     Colas ruled that Walker and the Commission do not have a “very good” reason to fundamentally affect the unions’ right to equal protection.
     Walker created “distinct classes” with his bill: union employees and nonunion employees, Colas found, and “it is plain that they are similarly situated.”
     Colas also found it an “unconstitutional intrusion” for the bill to have changed the “Milwaukee Home Rule.”
     The bill prohibits the Milwaukee from paying employees’ share of retirement contributions.
     The unions claimed that Milwaukee’s Charter Ordinances include a provision that requires the city to make the employees’ share of contributions to the Milwaukee Employee Retirement System, for workers hired before Jan. 1, 2010.
     Colas agreed. He found “the allocation of responsibility for contributions to the Milwaukee ERS between the City and its employees is a ‘local affair’ for purposes of the Home Rule Amendment.”
     Colas found that this change violates the unions’ contract and “is unconstitutional and null and void.”
     Colas found that Act 10 was properly enacted in special session, despite union claims that “the scope of the special session cannot be defined by a bill introduced after the proclamation of the special session.”
     The judge also found that the law does not violate the constitutional prohibition against taking a property interest without due process.
     Walker responded to the ruling in a statement that said, “Sadly, a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the law making responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.”
     The unions’ attorney, Lester Pines, retorted that Walker and his allies “have no respect for the judiciary.”
     “The governor is attempting to systematically undermine respect for the courts,” Pines told the Wisconsin State Journal.
     Pines said Walker spent $500,000 defending his bill and now “doesn’t have the class to say, ‘maybe I did something wrong.'”
     Colas wrote that collective bargaining is not a constitutional right, but once the government has permitted it, “it may not make the surrender or restriction of a constitutional right a condition of that privilege.”

%d bloggers like this: