Act 10 Upheld Again

MacIver News Service | September 11, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] Governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reform law, Act 10, won another courtroom battle on Wednesday, when the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin dismissed a constitutional challenge from government unions.

The case was similar to a previous challenge from the Wisconsin Education Association Counsel that claimed Act 10 violated the First Amendment and Equal Protection. WEAC eventually lost that fight. Laborers Local 236, AFSCME Local 60 and Jamie O’Brien presented a similar argument claiming that Act 10 denied them their freedom of association.

In his opinion, US District Judge William Conley stated freedom of association does not cover collective bargaining.

“Even if this right existed, there is an equally decisive catch. Whatever rights public employees have to associate and petition their public employers on wages and conditions of employment, this right certainly does not compel the employer to listen,” he wrote. “Under Act 10, general employees remain free to associate and represented employees and their unions remain free to speak; municipal employers are simply not allowed to listen.”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), which filed an amicus brief in case, pointed out that “collectively bargaining with a government employer is an act of legislative grace, not a constitutional right.”

According to WILL, the court also rejected the argument that Act 10 violated equal protection by limiting wage increases for represented employees to a cost-of-living adjustment without doing so for unrepresented employees. The court agreed with the state’s rationale that a municipality needs the flexibility to pay different workers different wages to better manage their finances.

Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen responded to the decision, “This case proves, once again, that Act 10 is constitutional in all respects and that the challenges to the law are baseless. I appreciate decisions like this that follow the law, and I look forward to bringing the remaining state court challenges before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where we expect Act 10 to be upheld once again.”

See the full opinion here.