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Constitutionality of Wisconsin’s Anti-Worker Act 10 Still Uncertain as Law Heads Back to Court

The fate of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s now infamous Act 10, which stripped collective bargaining rights from public employees, is still up in the legal air as the State Supreme Court decides if it should decide the constitutionality of the law. Two years after its passage and a year after the failed recall of Gov. Walker that it spurned, Wisconsin unions continue to fight the law in court.

City workers in Milwaukee and a teachers union in Madison managed to convince a state trial court torule in September that the law violates their First Amendment rights of speech and association, as well as their right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Workers rejoiced that they would be able to negotiate over the traditional range of labor issues as well as seek raises through their unions. An appellate court agreed with the ruling in March, putting the law on hold.

But the state argues that the ruling only applied to the parties in the case, not to all the other public employee and teacher unions across the state. Walker’s administration is reportedly writing administrative rules that would implement the law, despite its having been struck by the lower court as unconstitutional.

When the labor unions came back to court to complain, the appellate court, noting the confusion that the lower court’s ruling has created, punted.

On April 25th, the 4th District Appeals Court sent the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The appeals court is unequivocal about the importance of the matter:

“It is hard to imagine a dispute with greater statewide effect or with a greater need for a final resolution…

We urge the Supreme Court to accept this certification and put these legal issues to rest,” the appeals court said.

Walker’s disregard for the constitution has had a trickle-down effect in Wisconsin (finally! something is trickling down!). Major players and organizations have proceeded as if the matter of constitutionality has been settled. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen told the Associated Press “that Act 10 is constitutional in all respects and [I] anticipate that our Supreme Court will come to the same conclusion.

Another example of this wishful thinking comes from Elmbrook School District officials who have already used the law to restructure health care plans and retirement obligations, reduce paid time off to teachers, and limit salary increases to match revenue restrictions. Keith Brightman, assistant superintendent for finance in the Elmbrook School District, told Brookfield Now:

“I know there are school districts not necessarily doing that in the state and are waiting for the court opinion,” Brightman said. “But the legal opinion we’re getting right now is that we should be acting like Act 10 is law, and we are doing that.”

Having an opinion and issuing a legal opinion are apparently the same thing in anti-worker Wisconsin. The Elmbrook district’s Teacher Union Representative, Patrick Coffey, told Brookfield Now that the state would “lose good people to other careers. Most full-time teacher salaries are either frozen or have a minimal 1 percent salary increase. Meanwhile insurance costs continue to increase.” He adds that, “As a result of Act 10, there is no existing path for a teacher to increase their salary. In the past, Elmbrook teachers paid for their own education by taking classes that were approved by the district, and they would advance their salary. Now there is absolutely no path for a young teacher to advance. In post-Act 10 Wisconsin, how will we attract and retain good people to educate our students?”

Scott Walker and his think tank cronies continue to fabricate jobs numbers as the state’s jobs agency is being audited. The state also now ranks 44th in private-sector job growth.


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