On Friday, Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge David M. Bastianelli issued a ruling striking down the collective bargaining agreements reached between the Kenosha Unified School District and three of its unions in November of 2013. Although the District had already conceded that the CBAs were void because they violated Act 10, the unions continued to fight, arguing that they were entitled to rely on a decision by a Dane County judge declaring Act 10 unconstitutional (despite that decision being later reversed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court).
But Judge Bastianelli disagreed with the unions, stating that he could find no case “supporting the proposition that a trial court’s decision is precedential and has statewide effect.” He then cited to numerous cases from Wisconsin and around the country holding that a trial court’s decision is binding only on the specific parties to that case, concluding with this statement:
The defendant unions in this case, as non-parties to Madison Teachers, could not rely on Judge Colas’s decision to enter into contractual agreements with the KUSD that were contrary to the provisions of Act 10. Not only did another State court declare Act 10 constitutional before entry into the CBAs, but the Federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals as early as January, 2013, had also declared such act constitutional; reliance as a non-party was not legally justified.
Consequently, for the reasons set forth above, the court grants summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on their Second Cause of Action, finding that the CBA’s entered into by the union defendants during November of 2013, were contrary to the provisions of Act 10 and are therefore null and void.
WILL has partnered with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation throughout this case to represent both a Kenosha teacher and a Kenosha taxpayer. WILL and NRTW consider this an important victory with respect to making sure that municipal employers and unions comply with Act 10 and respect the right of municipal employees under Act 10.
A copy of the decision is available here.