Wisconsin Union Dons Pursue Judicial Bailout

Government Union Bosses Press State Supreme Court to Gut Act 10

(Click here to download the National Right to Work Committee’s November-December 2013 Newsletter)

Government union bosses haven’t been  able to overturn Wisconsin’s Act 10, which restricts their compulsory- unionism privileges, at the ballot box. And now it seems increasingly unlikely they will be able to overturn it in the courts.

Nearly three years ago, Gov. Scott Walker (R) infuriated union officials when he successfully advanced the measure now known as Act 10. Act 10 abolished forced union dues for teachers and many other public employees and also greatly narrowed the scope of government union monopoly bargaining in other ways.

In June 2012, Wisconsinites went to the polls in special “recall” elections orchestrated by Organized Labor.

Despite spending millions of dollars, mostly forced dues and fees exacted from workers, union bigwigs failed to unseat Gov. Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in retaliation for their drafting and winning legislative approval of Act 10.Dec NL_Page_5

In the November 2012 general elections, Wisconsin voters again rebuked the union brass, handing the Republican leaders responsible for Act 10 an 18-15 majority in the state Senate and retaining a large GOP majority in the state House.

It’s Constitutional to Ban Municipal Negotiations With Monopolistic Unions

In addition to pouring vast sums of forced-dues money into electoral politics to punish Act 10 proponents, union officials have also repeatedly gone to court to get back all of their monopoly-bargaining and forced-dues power.

But the future of Big Labor efforts to use the legal system to kill Act 10 is increasingly cloudy.

This September, U.S. District Judge William Conley handed union lawyers seeking to overturn, on constitutional grounds, the core Act 10 restrictions on monopolistic government unions the latest in a series of federal court defeats.

The First Amendment does protect government union bosses’ right to speak to government employers as if they represented the interests of all front-line employees, Judge Conley acknowledged.

But no First Amendment rights are affected when a state bans municipalities from negotiating with monopolistic unions, or drastically shortens the list of issues that may be negotiated.

This October, Dane County Circuit Judge John Markson similarly ruled that Act 10 violates neither the free-speech/free-association provisions in Article I, Sections 3 and 4 of the Wisconsin Constitution, nor the equal-protection provision in Article I, Section 1.

Big Labor Activist Judge Airily Dismissed Findings Of Multiple Other Courts

The fact that Big Labor’s legal crusade against Act 10 still represents a significant threat to this pro-individual employee freedom and pro-taxpayer law roughly 33 months after it was signed by Mr. Walker is largely due to the legal shenanigans of Juan Colas, another Dane County Circuit judge.

In a case he first ruled on in September 2012 and has since arrogantly tried to enforce statewide, Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker, Judge Colas has eagerly accepted union lawyers’ arguments and airily dismissed the findings of other courts, both state and federal.

But on November 21, a 5-2 state Supreme Court majority dealt a stern rebuke to Judge Colas by vacating a contempt order the union-label judge had issued blocking the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) from enforcing Act 10 in any workplace employing local public servants anywhere in the state.

National Right to Work Committee Vice President Matthew Leen cautioned that November’s Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling does not address the fundamental question of whether or not Judge Colas erred in finding key portions of Act 10 to be unconstitutional.

Even though it is likely all seven justices have already made up their minds, no final decision in Madison Teachers is expected until this spring.

“The 5-2 decision vacating the Colas contempt order against WERC augurs well,” Mr. Leen commented. “It would be unusual for a court that was about to strike down a law to act so decisively against a lower court order blocking the law’s enforcement.”

In the Madison Teachers case, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys have teamed up with the Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty to represent the interests of educators who don’t wish to be corralled into a union.

Thousands of Committee members in Wisconsin, who helped mobilize the grass-roots support to make Act 10’s passage possible in 2011, have a big stake in this case.