Unions seek to block implementation of Republican union-busting bill in federal court

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard by now about the decision issued on Tuesday by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reinstate Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation to strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees, legislation which had been held up by an order issued by Dane County Circuit Court judge Maryann Sumi.

In response to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision – a decision issued with what some have said is stunning speed and remarkable timing – the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, three councils of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), and and the Service Employees International Union-Health Care Wisconsin have filed a lawsuit in the federal court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The suit says the legislation violates the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution “by stripping away basic rights to bargain, organize and associate for the purpose of engaging in union activity, which have been in place for the last half century.” In addition, the suit alleges the legislation violates the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution by trying to “eliminate or reduce to a shell” the existing rights of state and municipal employees “while maintaining the robust bargaining rights of a favored class consisting of those employees falling within a newly created category deemed ‘public safety’ employees.” The favored class in question are the firefighters, police officers, and state troopers who were exempted from Gov. Walker’s union-busting legislation.

In their suit, the unions are asking the federal court to prevent the Walker administration from implementing the legislation, either temporarily or permanently.

It’s also important to note the suit does not seek to stop the increased pension and health insurance payments that would be imposed on public employees by Walker’s bill. According to a statement from the AFL-CIO, “Public sector unions have made it clear from day one that Wisconsin workers would do their part to share in the sacrifice and keep our state moving forward. The lawsuit only seeks to preserve the basic right to bargain and freely associate.”

I don’t presume to be a legal expert, so I don’t know the likelihood of a federal judge issuing an order stopping implementation of the union-busting legislation, but no matter if an order is issued or not, this issue seems far from over.


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