The Wisconsin Supreme Court last week upheld Act 10, the state law passed amid rancorous debate in 2011 that sharply curtails the collective bargaining rights of teachers’ unions and most other public-employee labor groups.
“Collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation,” the state’s highest court said in its 5-2 decision.
The court upheld the law in its entirety, handing a victory to Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who led the charge to scale back the power of public-employee unions.
Act 10 bars collective bargaining between municipal employers such as cities and school districts and labor representatives on all subjects except base wages. This provision stripped issues such as hours, working conditions, and grievance procedures from the collective-bargaining process. Also, base-wage increases are limited to the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index, unless a larger raise was approved by referendum.
The statute also bars “fair share” or agency-shop arrangements in which public-employee unions may charge employees who object to joining their share of fees for collective-bargaining activities. And it bars local governments from deducting dues from employee paychecks on behalf of unions.
The law does not burden employees’ rights to organize themselves in a labor organization or to speak out on issues, the majority said.
In a concurring opinion, Justice N. Patrick Crooks wrote that Act 10 “effectively ended meaningful union representation” for many public employees.
Madison Teachers Inc., a National Education Association affiliate and the lead plaintiff, issued a statement calling the decision “morally bankrupt.”
A version of this article appeared in the August 06, 2014 edition of Education Week as Wisconsin High Court Upholds Collective Bargaining Restrictions