Two More Unions Sue Wisconsin Governor

MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – Another coalition of Wisconsin unions sued Gov. Scott Walker in Federal Court, claiming his “Budget Repair Bill” violates the Municipal Employment Relations Act and the Constitution.

     The unions – Laborers Local 236, AFL-CIO and AFSCME Local 60, AFL-CIO – represent about 2,600 Public Works employees and other city and county workers who “perform physically demanding and dangerous work that requires strong physical conditioning.” They say the union-busting law illegally amends the Municipal Employment Relations Act and “effectively undermines and substantially eliminates the right of local government employees to bargain with their employers.”
     The unions say their ability “to maintain themselves and to express the collective viewpoint of their members” is substantially impaired by the bill, also known as Wisconsin Act 10. They say it impairs individuals’ right to associate with and support their unions of choice.
     Among other things, Wisconsin Act 10 limits terms of collective bargaining agreements to one year and prohibits any extensions; makes it illegal for municipal employers to bargain with labor organizations on anything except wages; requires the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to conduct collective bargaining representation elections annually and requires representatives to garner at least 51 percent of the vote or they will be decertified and unable to be a candidate again for at least another year; does not allow union dues to be deducted from paychecks; and requires union representatives to represent “free riders” who do no paying for the services they are provided.
     The unions say the “free riders” are not the only group who are given preferential treatment by Walker’s bill. Many of its provisions do not apply to firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical service employees and transit workers represented by unions. The plaintiffs say this disparate treatment creates “unnecessary conflict among the employees and divisions within and among public sector labor organizations.” They say “there is not a constitutionally reasonable basis to justify such unequal treatment under the law.”
     Walker’s now-famous Budget Repair Bill was introduced on Feb. 11 and makes far greater changes to collective-bargaining rights than it does to the state’s budget deficit.
     The third plaintiff in this complaint is Jamie O’Brien, a Madison Public Works employee.
     The defendants are Walker and the chairman and members of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. All are responsible for administering, implementing and enforcing the new law.
     The unions want enforcement of Act 10 permanently enjoined as unconstitutional, violating the First and 14th Amendments.
     The unions are represented by Bruce Ehlke with Ehlke Bero-Lehmann, of Madison.

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