Wisconsin Judge Rules Walker’s ACT 10 Unconstitutional
September 17, 2012 8:47 am
By: Matthew McDermott
A Dane County circuit judge dealt a significant blow to Scott Walker’s anti-union ACT 10 on Friday, ruling key elements of the law unconstitutional. The decision, handed down by Judge Juan Colas, takes issue with the law’s divergent treatment of union and non-union workers.
The ruling states that the elimination of public union bargaining power only affects represented workers and thus violates the constitutional freedoms of speech and association. Specifically, the decision condemns the law as seeking to: “…single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions.”
The Dane County decision follows a separate federal court ruling that the limited application of ACT 10 to leave “public safety” unions unaffected was unconstitutional. (Union plaintiffs in that case pointed out that unions who supported Scott Walker were arbitrarily considered to be “public safety” unions under ACT 10). That case is currently on appeal to the 7th Circuit, with plaintiffs seeking for the whole law to be declared unconstitutional. The decisions of both Wisconsin judges portray ACT 10 as petty, unconstitutional legislation.
The governor’s office promised to appeal the Dane County ruling to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and seek a stay to keep the provisions of ACT 10 in place. The case, brought by a Madison teachers’ union and Milwaukee public employees union, could render ACT 10 a fleeting nightmare.
Lester Pines, an attorney for the Madison teachers union, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “The decision essentially creates the (2011) status quo for municipal employees and school district employees because it declared the essential provisions of Act 10 to be unconstitutional.”
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen vowed to appeal while affirming ACT 10’s constitutionality, and Governor Walker decried the Colas decision as the work of an activist judge looking to take power away from elected lawmakers. But Walker’s attempt to cast shade on the judge’s reputation doesn’t change the fact that multiple judges have now ruled elements of ACT 10 unconstitutional. And the amount of out-of-state money Walker received to support his successful effort to fend off recall more than indicts him as an activist governor — one with an agenda reaching far beyond the state he’s been elected to serve.
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