Law & Courts News in Brief

Judge Invalidates Most of Wis. Anti-Union Law

By Mark Walsh — September 25, 2012 1 min read
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A state judge has struck down key provisions of the 2011 Wisconsin law that curtailed the collective bargaining rights of teachers and other public employees.

Judge Juan B. Colas of Dane County Circuit Court in Madison ruled Sept. 14 that the anti-union law championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker violates public employees’ rights to free speech and association under the state and federal constitutions. The law was passed amid a tumultuous legislative special session, and unions later helped force a recall election for Mr. Walker, which the governor survived.

In response, a union that represents about 100,000 employees in Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee public schools, the city of Milwaukee and other municipalities sent letters last week requesting negotiations on new contracts, the Associated Press reported. Some local affiliates of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers’ union, have also begun the process of asking their districts to return to the bargaining table.

The state judge ruled in a challenge brought by Madison Teachers Inc., an affiliate of the National Education Association representing teachers and other school employees in the Madison district, as well as by a Milwaukee municipal employees’ union.

The unions challenged the key provisions of the Wisconsin law, such as ones that prohibit municipal and school employers from offering union-represented workers a base wage increase greater than the cost of living, bargaining on issues other than wages, entering into “fair share” agreements covering employees who refuse to join the union, and deducting union dues from government paychecks.

The lawsuit also challenged the statute’s annual-recertification procedures for the unions.

Judge Colas ruled that the law’s provisions burden the rights to free speech and association of the unions and their members.

Gov. Walker, in a statement, said the people of Wisconsin “clearly spoke” on June 5, the date of his recall-election victory, but “sadly, a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.”

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A version of this article appeared in the September 26, 2012 edition of Education Week as Judge Invalidates Most of Wis. Anti-Union Law

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