Wisconsin Judge Rules Walker’s Anti-Labor Law ‘Null and Void’

Wisconsin Judge Rules Walker’s Anti-Labor Law ‘Null and Void’

Wisconsin Judge Rules Walker’s Anti-Labor Law ‘Null and Void’

“Collective bargaining has been restored for teachers across Wisconsin, for municipal employees across Wisconsin,” says a key union leader.


A Wisconsin judge has struck down key sections of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s controversial anti-labor law, in a ruling that union leaders say renews collective-bargaining rights for tens of thousands of municipal and school district employees across the state.

“Collective bargaining has been restored for teachers across Wisconsin, for municipal employees across Wisconsin,” declared Madison Teachers Inc. director John Matthews, whose union brought the suit along with Laborers Local 61, a Milwaukee Public employees union. “We are back to where we were before Scott Walker moved to take away our rights.”

Dane County Judge Juan Colas ruled that Walker’s law—which sparked mass protests, the occupation of the state Capitol for weeks and a series of recall elections that (while they did not remove the governor from office) shifted control of the state Senate from Walker’s Republican allies to pro-labor Democrats—violates “rights of free speech, association and equal protection.”

The judge also ruled that Walker’s Act 10 violated the state constitution’s Home Rule Amendment, which allows municipalities to establish their own laws and practices, and the state constitutional prohibition against impairment of contracts. Those sections of the decision restore refer to pension protections, which had been undermined by Act 10.

Because of the violations of federal and state constitutional protections, Judge Colas ruled unequivocally that: “Those sections found to be unconstitutional are void and without effect.”

The Walker administration announced immediately that it would appeal the decision, and there was lively debate about where exactly relations between local governments and school districts now stand.

But Matthews said that, after consultation with his lawyer and with school board members, he believes “collective bargaining is back in effect. Our rights have been restored to where they were in January, 2011.”

Under Walker’s Act 10, most of the protections contained in Wisconsin’s fifty-year-old public employee collective bargaining law were struck down. Workers for the state, counties, municipalities and school districts were barred from negotiating for benefits and pensions and on workplace safety issues. Public-employee unions could not organize in traditional ways and faced limits on their ability to collect dues and otherwise maintain their operations.

Now, says Lester Pines, the attorney for the two unions that sued the state, “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.”

That is not necessarily the case for state employees, since the ruling came in a case brought by municipal and school district employee unions.

But state employee union leaders say their lawyers are reviewing the judge’s decision and they suggest that the detailed referencing of constitutional concerns leads them to believe they could seek judicial intervention on behalf of their members.

What this means is that the Wisconsin fight, now more than a year and a half old, is far from finished.

It also means that union activists who framed their mass protests in February and March of 2011 on constitutional lines, arguing that their rights were under attack, may well have understood the real issues better than the governor or his legislative allies.

“As we have said from day one, Scott Walker’s attempt to silence the union men and women of Wisconsin’s public sector was an immoral, unjust and illegal power grab,” Phil Neuenfeldt, the president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, said Friday night. “Now, a court has ruled that the essential provisions of Act 10, Scott Walker’s draconian attack on public worker’s right to collectively bargain, is unconstitutional.”

For more on union politics, check out our coverage of the Chicago Teachers Union strike.

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It’s just one of many examples of incisive, deeply-reported journalism we publish—journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media. For nearly 160 years, The Nation has spoken truth to power and shone a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

In a critical election year as well as a time of media austerity, independent journalism needs your continued support. The best way to do this is with a recurring donation. This month, we are asking readers like you who value truth and democracy to step up and support The Nation with a monthly contribution. We call these monthly donors Sustainers, a small but mighty group of supporters who ensure our team of writers, editors, and fact-checkers have the resources they need to report on breaking news, investigative feature stories that often take weeks or months to report, and much more.

There’s a lot to talk about in the coming months, from the presidential election and Supreme Court battles to the fight for bodily autonomy. We’ll cover all these issues and more, but this is only made possible with support from sustaining donors. Donate today—any amount you can spare each month is appreciated, even just the price of a cup of coffee.

The Nation does not bow to the interests of a corporate owner or advertisers—we answer only to readers like you who make our work possible. Set up a recurring donation today and ensure we can continue to hold the powerful accountable.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ad Policy