Wis. AG to appeal ruling over collective bargaining law, seek stay

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 18, 2012, 10:30am

Van Hollen


MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - A Dane County Circuit Court judge ruled Friday that portions of Gov. Scott Walker's controversial collective bargaining law violates both the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions.

Plaintiffs Madison Teachers Inc., a labor union representing employees of the Madison Metropolitan School District; one of its members, Peggy Coyne; Public Employees Local 61, a local union representing employees of the city of Milwaukee; and one of its members, John Weigman, filed a lawsuit over Walker's Budget Repair Bill, also known as Wisconsin Act 10.

The named defendants include Walker and the three members of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, or WERC. They include Chairman James R. Scott, Judith Neumann and Rodney Pasch.

In their suit, the plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of statutory changes made by the law to collective bargaining, payroll deduction of dues, and contributions to pension benefits with respect to municipal employees.

Circuit Judge Juan B. Colas said although the statutes do not prohibit speech or "associational activities," the statutes do impose burdens on employees' exercise of those rights "when they do so for the purpose of recognition of their association as an exclusive bargaining agent."

"In the statutes at issue, the state has imposed significant and burdensome restrictions on employees who choose to associate in a labor organization," he wrote in the 27-page ruling.

"The statutes limit what local governments may offer employees who are represented by a union, solely because of that association."

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a statement Saturday that Act 10 is constitutional "in all respects."

He said his office, which is representing the defendants, will be appealing the 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," Van Hollen said.

On Friday, Walker released a separate statement in reaction to the circuit court's ruling.

"The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5. Now, they are ready to move on," he said.

Opponents of the governor's collective bargaining law, which was passed by the Wisconsin Legislature and later upheld by the state Supreme Court, launched a push for a recall election.

They received enough support to force an election on June 5 -- a first for a Wisconsin governor.

Walker won the recall by a slightly larger margin than the 2010 election.

It was only the third gubernatorial recall election in U.S. history and the first in which the incumbent won.

"Sadly, a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the law-making responsibilities of the Legislature and the governor," Walker said.

"We are confident that the State will ultimately prevail in the appeals process."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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