Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's law repealing most collective bargaining for local and school employees was struck down by a Dane County judge on Friday. Judge throws out Walker's union bargaining law:
The law remains largely in force for state workers, but for city, county and school workers the decision by Dane County Judge Juan Colas returns the law to its status before Walker signed the legislation in March 2011.
Colas ruled that the law violated workers' constitutional rights to free speech, free association and equal representation under the law by capping union workers' raises but not those of their nonunion counterparts. The judge also ruled that the law violated the "home rule" clause of the state constitution by setting the contribution for City of Milwaukee employees to the city pension system rather than leaving it to the city and workers.
The decision could still be overturned on appeal - the Supreme Court has already restored the law once in June 2011 after it was blocked by a different Dane County judge in a different case earlier that year.
"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," said Lester Pines, an attorney for the Madison teachers union and one of its members.
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A spokeswoman for Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he would likely appeal the decision.
"We believe the law is constitutional. We are reviewing the decision, but we're planning to appeal," Dana Brueck said.
The ruling also appeared to strike down for local workers a requirement that they pay half of the contribution to their pensions and, for workers within the state of Wisconsin health insurance system, pay at least 12% of their premiums. Those cost savings have been crucial for local governments and schools in dealing with the more than $1 billion in cuts in state aid over two years that Walker and GOP lawmakers passed last year to close a state budget hole.
In his decision, Colas noted that the law limited union workers to cost-of-living salary increases through bargaining while other employees were free to seek larger raises. Colas said the state lacked a reasonable basis for making that distinction.
Colas also noted that the law grouped workers into different classes, since local police and firefighters kept all their bargaining rights under the law but other workers did not. In making these distinctions, the law ultimately infringed on workers' rights to associate with one another freely and to be treated the same way under the law, the judge found.
The home rule section of the constitution states that the state can only pass laws that uniformly affect cities and villages. Colas found that the law violated that part of the constitution by prohibiting the City of Milwaukee from paying the employees' share of their pension contributions.
Colas ruled against the plaintiffs on two of their claims, saying that Act 10 did not violate the constitution provisions on special legislative sessions and did not violate a prohibition against taking property without due process.
The ruling follows another one last year by Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi, who blocked the law after ruling [on the narrow grounds] that legislators violated the state's open-meetings law in passing it. The state Supreme Court later overruled Sumi and restored the law.
A federal judge in Madison has also overturned a part of the law requiring both state and local public unions to hold elections each year among workers to retain their official status. That case is still on appeal.
It ain't over until the last court issues a final decision. . . or Democrats take back the Wisconsin legislature and repeal this unconstitutional law.