Unions across Wisconsin are celebrating the most recent ruling by Dane County Judge Juan Colas in their favor. Last Friday, Colas ruled that Gov. Scott Walker’s law restricting the collective bargaining of unionized public workers is unconstitutional.
Colas stated that Walker’s law violated the constitutional rights of free speech, free association and equal representation of public workers.
Colas also ruled the law violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause by differentiating between the treatment of union and non-unionized employees. In his 27-page ruling, he said some of the law’s sections “single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States constitutions.”
The ruling will affect all local public workers, including teachers and city and county government employees. Prior to the ruling, collective bargaining was limited to wage increases and did not include health benefits, pensions and workplace safety. Now these can all be bargained.
Walker argued that the law was necessary to close the $137 million gap in Wisconsin’s budget. The law has been in effect since March 2011 and has prompted many protests and a recall election on June 5, from which Republican Gov. Scott Walker emerged as the first U.S. governor to survive a recall. The recall cost taxpayers more than $13.5 million.
Walker’s administration will attempt to appeal, and the decision could still be overturned by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Until then, however, it is unclear if unions will be able to negotiate contracts or if Walker’s law will remain in effect.