Do Unions Have an Opening to Negotiate after a Dane County Judge’s Ruling?

MacIver News Service | October 25, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] In the midst of confusion created by a circuit judge potentially acting well beyond the limits of his authority, at least one Wisconsin teachers union is acting under the belief Act 10 never existed in the first place.

Last year Judge Juan Colas ruled in favor of two specific unions in a lawsuit that it is unconstitutional for the state to require public unions to hold annual recertification elections. On September 17th, he then decided that his ruling applied to every union in the state, not just those actually involved in the lawsuit.

Rick Esenberg, President of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, pointed out “only the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals can make decisions that have statewide, precedential effect.”

“With respect, we continue to believe that Judge Colas’ decision on the constitutionality of Act 10 is clearly wrong and not supported by law or court precedent,” Esenberg said in a press release Tuesday. “By attempting to extend his ruling to impair the rights of others not before the court, yesterday’s decision opens a Pandora’s box of legal issues and litigation, until the state Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of Act 10.”

Regardless, unions that were decertified for not holding those elections in the past now claim they effectively never lost their certification, like the Waunakee Teachers Association and the Kenosha Education Association.

Another is going even further and claiming that their “right” to collectively bargain a new contract has been restored. Oshkosh Education Association is pushing for automatic pay raises based on seniority and continuing education, like it had before Act 10 went into effect.

“It shows sadly that the Oshkosh teachers union is stuck in the mold that everyone makes the same regardless of effort or skill level,” Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) told the MacIver News Service. “Hopefully soon the Oshkosh superintendent will get a hold of the situation and the Oshkosh Schools will improve along with so many other school districts around the state.”

Despite Judge Colas finding them in contempt, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission is preparing for hundreds of recertification elections in November.

The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from the state regarding Judge Colas’ initial ruling in 2012.