Wis. public employees want action in 'Act 10' case

Michael P. Tremoglie Aug. 16, 2012, 2:46pm


CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) -- Three Wisconsin public employees appealed the dismissal of their intervenor status by the federal district court hearing the challenge to Gov. Scott Walker's public-sector unionism reform measures known as "Act 10."

The appeal was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Chicago asking to grant the status and uphold all of the law's provisions. The employees are receiving free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

The government employees involved are Pleasant Prairie teacher Kristi Lacroix, Waukesha high school teacher Nathan Berish, and trust fund specialist at the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds Ricardo Cruz. They filed their reply brief Aug. 13.

The workers are challenging a lower court judge's ruling striking down Wisconsin's new union recertification requirements and the ban on the use of taxpayer funded-payroll systems to collect union dues for general employees, as well as excluding them from the case.

Regarding the issue of recertification they employees refute the union argument that eliminating collective bargaining affects free speech.

They said, "Wisconsin's current decision to listen more to individuals and less to the collective does not rise to the level of nonpublic forum analysis. Wisconsin has the right to decide, without judicial interference, to whom it will listen, and the rules under which it will listen and dialog. Imagine an elected representative who invites to her office and listens only to those who supported her election and ignores those who did not. She entertains the opinions of one special interest group, excluding the competing groups. Few citizens would doubt the representative's right to make those decisions, and Knight confirmed that those kinds of decisions create no constitutional violations for government decision makers. Logically, if government can choose its dialog partners from among those seeking to express political opinion (a core First Amendment activity), then the government has a sufficiently compelling interest to override a mere equal protection claim for which no heightened scrutiny is required."

The workers want the appellate court uphold ACT 10 as being constitutional. They are relying on the U.S. Supreme Court Davenport v. WEA victory in which the Court unanimously held that the union enjoys an "extraordinary power" to force workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. But the unions have no constitutional right to use government resources to deduct union dues or fees from workers' paychecks.

"Union bosses from across the state of Wisconsin are fighting tooth and nail to strike down any limit to their power," said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work. "No worker should ever be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, which is why Wisconsin should go a step further by passing Right to Work protections to protect all Badger State employees from forced union affiliation."

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