The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a controversial 2011 law championed by Gov. Scott Walker (R) that essentially bars collective bargaining for public employee unions. Unions had challenged the law, calling it unconstitutional. But by a 5-2 decision, the state's high court disagreed. As reported by the Associated Press, Justice Michael Gableman, writing for the court's conservative majority, declared that "No matter the limitations or 'burdens' a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation." The ruling was a huge victory for Walker, who withstood a 2012 recall attempt and is now seeking re-election this fall. He is also thought to be weighing a possible presidential run in 2016. The law, now known as Act 10, restricts public workers to collectively bargaining only over base wage increases, and for no more than the rate of inflation. It further requires them to contribute more toward their health insurance and pension costs and bars automatic withdrawals from members' paychecks. The law also mandates that unions hold annual elections to see if their members want their unions to continue representing them. Walker alluded to those impacts in a statement issued after the court's ruling last Wednesday. "Act 10 has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 billion," he said. "Today's ruling is a victory for those hardworking taxpayers." Badger State unions reacted strongly, with the Madison teacher union that filed the suit calling the decision "not only disappointing but morally bankrupt." But Lester Pines, a lawyer for the union, said the court's ruling was hardly unexpected given its strongly-conservative philosophical bent. He also indicated the unions are not likely to fold up shop any time soon. "The governor's desire to destroy the public employee unions has failed," Pines said. "We'll just see new approaches to dealing with employers by the unions. Those will become evident as we go forward." (ASSOCIATED PRESS, ABCNEWS.COM, NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS)
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