Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Limitations Placed on Collective Bargaining Rights

A Circuit Court Judge in Wisconsin has struck down a law limiting collective bargaining, finding it unconstitutional.  As reported by the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Judge Colas of Dane County, Wisconsin, raised an issue with treating non-union and union employees differently, among others.  With Maryland among the many states addressing employee pensions and benefits as part of long-term budget resolutions, the impacts of the Wisconsin case will be watched closely.

In Madison Teachers Inc. v. Walker, Judge Colas found that parts of Wisconsin’s Act 10, signed into law in March 2011, violated rights of free speech, association, and equal protection granted by the U.S. Constitution.  The court struck down Act 10’s prohibitions against municipalities offering base wage increases greater than the cost of living to union employees and against collectively bargaining with unions on conditions of employment other than wages.  The Court also found that the law violated the City of Milwaukee’s home rule under the Wisconsin Constitution by barring the City from paying the employee share of the contributions to its employee retirement system.

Opinions are divided regarding how the decision will hold up on appeal. As the Journal Sentinel describes,

The (court) paper is going to be flying,” said Lester Pines, an attorney for a Madison teachers union. “This case will be continuing in litigation . . . but we’re confident that this law is unconstitutional and will remain unconstitutional.”

In a statement Saturday, Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said, “We believe that Act 10 is constitutional in all respects and will be appealing this decision. We also will be seeking a stay of Friday’s decision pending appeal in order to allow the law to continue in effect as it has for more than a year while the appellate courts address the legal issues.”

With the appeal now pending, local officials are aware that more changes could be ahead.

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