BREAKING NEWS - Dane County Judge Declares Significant Portions of Act 10 Unconstitutional

Posted September 14, 2012

Judge Juan B. Colas, Dane County Circuit Court, has just issued a late-Friday afternoon decision declaring unconstitutional substantial portions of Act 10’s collective bargaining reforms.

For local government workers (municipal, county, school district, and special district employees, but not state employees), Judge Colas found the following provisions of Act 10 to violate union members’ First Amendment and Equal Protection rights:

  • Limiting the scope of collective bargaining for general employees to base wages;
  • Requiring a referendum to increase wages for general employees above the cost of living;
  • Prohibiting general employee unions from imposing “fair share” dues on non-members;
  • Imposing annual recertification elections on bargaining representatives for general employees
  • Prohibiting payroll deductions for unions for general employees

A federal judge has already enjoined the annual recertification elections and prohibitions on payroll deductions, but concluded the limitations on the scope of collective bargaining and the prohibition on fair share agreements are constitutional.

The court also struck down Act 10’s requirement that City of Milwaukee employees pay their own share of pension plan contributions, concluding that requirement violated an earlier grant of autonomy on that subject to the City of Milwaukee by the legislature and unconstitutionally impaired the contractual relationship between the City and its employees.

We are reviewing the judge’s opinion and have already begun to flag legal errors made by the judge.  We will take steps to reverse this decision on behalf of our client, a public school teacher who supports Act 10’s reforms.

The judge's opinion does not expressly enjoin enforcement of these provisions of Act 10, so their current status remains unclear.  It's possible the judge may stay application of his judgment pending appeal.  How the decision would affect the status of de-certified unions and expired contracts is also unclear.

The judge's opinion can be read here.  Media coverage can be found here and here.

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