Judge Rules Wisconsin’s Collective Bargaining Law Unconstitutional

Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas on Friday ruled 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 unconstitutional as it pertains to collective bargaining rights for public employees. Judge Colas ruled that the law violates those employees’ rights to freedom of speech and association under both the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions, as well as the equal protection clause of the Wisconsin Constitution. The ruling, however, applies only to municipal and not state employees, as the latter were not plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Although Judge Colas ruled the relevant statutes as “null and void”, whether or not the ruling had immediate effect was unclear. In addition, the ruling appeared only to affect those municipal workers represented by the plaintiffs and not all municipal workers in the state of Wisconsin.

Act 10, otherwise known as the collective bargaining law, is Governor Scott Walker’s signature piece of legislation. After it was introduced, it sparked massive protests at the state Capitol during the winter and spring months of 2011 and spurred a nationwide debate on unions and the rights of public employees. An election to recall Governor Walker took place in June. Walker not only survived the high-profile recall effort, but he was able to defeat the same challenger he faced in his original gubernatorial bid – Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett – by an even larger margin (GAB results 2010, 2012).

In a statement responding to the ruling, Governor Walker lashed out at Judge Colas, calling him “a liberal activist judge”, and accusing him of “[wanting] to take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor.”

In response to Governor Walker’s statement, the plaintiffs’ attorney criticized Walker, according to the following excerpt from an article by The Wall Street Journal:

Lester Pines, the attorney representing the unions on the case, criticized Mr. Walker for attacking Judge Colas and pointed out that his ruling was split. “How does he explain that?” Mr. Pines asked rhetorically. “Every time he loses a decision in Dane County he attacks the judge as a biased liberal judge…it’s nothing more than an attempt to undermine the judiciary.”


Friday’s decision, however, does not represent the end of the road for Act 10, as a spokesperson for Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen stated that they planned to appeal the decision. Both sides expressed confidence in their respective prospects for succeeding in the appeal.

To read the full decision, click here.

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This entry was posted in Collective Bargaining, Policy, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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