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Parts of Scott Walker-era Act 10, union law struck down by judge



FILE - Protesters gather outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011. The protest was peaceful as both sides exchanged chants of "Pass the bill! Pass the bill!" and "Kill the bill! Kill the bill!" The Wisconsin governor, elected in November's GOP wave that also gave control of the state Assembly and Senate to Republicans, set off the protests earlier this week by pushing ahead with a measure that would require government workers to contribute more to their health care and pension costs and largely eliminate their collective bargaining rights. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Parts of Wisconsin’s Act 10 law have been ruled unconstitutional, according to a Dane County judge, who also denied a motion by the Republican-controlled state Legislature to dismiss a case challenging the Scott Walker-era law that slashed unions’ power.

The lawsuit, filed in November of 2023 by several unions, argues the 2011 law violates equal protection guarantees in the Wisconsin Constitution by dividing public employees into two classes: “general” and “public safety” employees.

What this means for unions in Wisconsin at this time is still unknown.

The law sparked huge protests and recall elections across the state, including of Walker and state Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse). Walker won his recall, while Kapane lost by 10 points to Jennifer Shilling.

Act 10 stopped public-sector unions from being able to negotiate over any issues other than raises. Those raises, too, were capped at the rate of inflation. Those unions were also required to hold annual elections in order to continue to negotiate raises. Within those elections, a majority of all eligible members was needed to win, not just those who cast votes.

Public safety employees, like police and fire, are exempt from the collective bargaining limitations imposed on “general” public employees, such as teachers.

In his ruling, Dane County Circuit Judge Jacob Frost wrote: “Rational basis review provides a simple premise. Can you explain a law’s differing treatment of different groups in a way that makes sense and supports a public policy? If not, the different treatment is irrational and violates the right to equal protection of the laws. Because nobody could provide this Court an explanation that reasonably showed why municipal police and fire and State Troopers are considered public safety employees, but Capitol Police, UW Police and conservation wardens, who have the same authority and do the same work, are not.

“Thus, Capitol Police, UW Police, and conservation wardens are treated unequally with no rational basis for that difference. Act 10 therefore violates their rights to equal protection under the law and I declare those provisions of the Act relating to collective bargaining modifications unconstitutional and void.”

Republicans called out the ruling and its timing.

“Act 10 has been found legal and constitutional against multiple state and federal court actions for close to 15 years. This is yet another example of courts legislating from the bench,” state Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said in a prepared statement. “Once again, the only way the Democrats can get their way is through activist judges dropping decisions on a holiday weekend when no one is watching. Unfortunately, if this decision stands, it will cost Wisconsin’s hard-working families millions of dollars.”

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  1. John Q Public

    July 5, 2024 at 6:32 am

    Guess the judge is getting a kick back like the dysfunctional deranged delusional depraved perverted biden.

    • walden

      July 6, 2024 at 4:57 pm

      The State surplus is already disappearing before our eyes having decreased from $7 billion a year ago to a projected $3.15 Billion by next June, with increases in public school funding likely to consume the rest in coming years if Evers’ creative veto is sustained by the courts.

      If anything is left to fight over, this partial reverse of Act 10 will bleach clean the carcass of the surplus. Just like that…surplus gone. So too, gone is the wished for elimination of income tax on retiree benefits.

      Like a true Democrat; surplus becomes deficit like magic…the only thing left is to raise taxes like Dem Minnesota and Illinois. Enjoy.

  2. nick

    July 5, 2024 at 7:15 am

    You have the cost correct.
    Thought you would be happy.

  3. Libertarian Guy

    July 5, 2024 at 7:41 am

    Act 10 did not decrease the power of unions. It decreased the power of PUBLIC unions. That is, it decreased the ability of public unions to extract big money from taxpayers. It also caused public union employees to have to contribute more to their health insurance, like us private sector employees instead of getting it free courtesy of taxpayers. It enabled insurance competition that decreased the cost of insurance saving teachers and taxpayers significant dollars. Jennifer Schilling and Democrat colleagues went to Illinois instead of staying in Wisconsin to do their jobs. Teachers called in sick so they could yell and scream at the capital in Madison, closing schools for the day forcing parents to miss work and disrupting commerce. The exemption for public employees/police/fire was a concession demanded by Democrats. And now this activist/liberal judge is using the exemption to poke holes in Act 10.

    • Roy

      July 5, 2024 at 10:42 am

      I’d say that is a correct, concise summary of events. I’m not sure that a Madison Circuit Court Judge can overturn what the people’s representatives in the Assembly and Senate and the Governor at the time have mandated. If the scheme was to force the existing law to the Liberal-dominated State Supreme Court and have those judges throw out the entire Act 10, then that follows all the other mischief state Democrats have been up to lately. Then Wisconsin will have become subject to The Peoples Republic of Madison and the conquest will have become complete.

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