Earlier today Dane County Judge Juan Colas struck down Wisconsin Act 10, which virtually eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees.
While Judge Colas’ decision is certainly good news, I don’t expect his ruling to last, given the conservative bent to our State Supreme court. No doubt Justice David Prosser will have another opportunity to prove that he is in fact an excellent complement to Republicans in the Legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Here’s more on Judge Colas’ decision.
The law remains largely in force for state workers, though a federal judge struck down part of that section of the law as well earlier this year. But for city, county, and school workers the decision by Dane County Judge Juan Colas returns the law to its status before Walker signed his law in March 2011.
Colas ruled that the law violated workers’ constitutional rights by denying to union workers certain powers available to their nonunion counterparts. The decision could still be overturned on appeal – the Supreme Court has already restored the law once in June 2011 after it was blocked by a different Dane County judge earlier that year.
“The decision essentially creates the (2011) status quo for municipal employees and school district employees because it declared that the essential provisions of Act 10 to be unconstitutional,” said Lester Pines, an attorney for the Madison teachers and city of Milwaukee employees who are plaintiffs.
School districts and local officials will have to return to the bargaining table with their workers in a much more significant way. The decision raises a host of questions about changes in pay, benefits and work rules that have taken place in the meantime while bargaining was essentially dead.
Under Walker’s law, both the state and local governments were prohibited from bargaining over anything besides a cost of living salary adjustment. Other issues such as health benefits, pensions, workplace safety and other work rules were strictly off limits.
Those can all now be bargained.