A county judge in Wisconsin has struck down most of the
law Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed last year that restricted public employees'
collective bargaining rights and sparked mass protests in Madison.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas said the provisions of the law
prohibiting union workers from bargaining with local governments over issues
like wage increases, benefits and working conditions violated union members'
rights to free speech and expression and equal protection because it created
different classes of workers, based on whether or not they belonged to a union.
"The statute limits what local governments may offer their employees
solely because of that association," Col~s wrote.
The decision potentially opens the door for public employee unions to try to
reverse major concessions they made in their current contracts. That, in turn,
could squeeze local governments, which now receive less money from the state in
exchange for being freed from the burden of collective bargaining.
"The impact could be dramatic," said Don Hietpas, chief financial
officer for the Appleton Area School District.
Labor groups cheered the decision.
"This is a good day for Wisconsin's working people and the union
movement," Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Stephanie
Bloomingdale said in a statement. "When workers choose to join together
for mutual aid and protection, their employer should honor their choice, come
to the table and discuss wages and working conditions."
But Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the state will appeal the
ruling as well as seek a stay of the decision to keep the law in effect while
litigation continues. Gov. Walker, meanwhile, dismissed the decision as the
product of a "liberal activist" who "wants to go backwards and
take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the
"We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals
process," he said.
The case will likely reach the state's Supreme Court, which has a conservative
majority and upheld the law under a challenge on procedural grounds last year.
(STATELINE.ORG, CHICAGO TRIBUNE).
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