The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has upheld the Wisconsin union law that was the subject of massive protests in 2011, including a takeover of the State Capitol and widespread threats and acts of intimidation. The decision was unanimous in most respects. The full decision is embedded at the bottom of this post.
A federal court of appeals on Friday upheld Wisconsin’s law repealing most collective bargaining for most public employees , handing a victory to Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans who put the law in place amid tumult two years ago.
Parts of the collective bargaining law, known as Act 10, remain on hold because of a state judge’s ruling in a separate case, but Friday’s decision was a setback for public employees and their unions.
Last year, U.S. District Judge William M. Conley largely upheld the legislation but struck down parts of Act 10 dealing with prohibitions on government employers withholding union dues from workers’ paychecks as well as a section requiring labor unions to vote to recertify yearly. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago reversed that lower court’s ruling in a split decision Friday that upheld the law in its entirety….
Despite Friday’s victory, the future of the law remains uncertain.
A judge in Dane County in September struck down parts of the union law and that case is not affected by the federal ruling Friday. That case is now before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
The Wisconsin Attorney General issued the following statement:
Regarding the decision, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen stated: “For nearly two years, those opposing Act 10 have tried every angle to have it struck down and invalidated. Today’s decision by the Seventh Circuit confirms what I have stated from the beginning. Act 10 is constitutional. While there are no guarantees, it is my hope that this decision will pave the way for resolving any remaining challenges in a manner that supports the legislative decisions made by our elected officials.”
Local radio station 620 WTMJ has other reactions from Wisconsin politicians.
While technically a “split” decision, it was unanimous in most respects, with only Judge Hamilton dissenting “from the portion of the court’s decision upholding Wisconsin’s selective prohibition on payroll deductions for dues for some public employee unions but not others.” (p. 43) Even Judge Hamilton agreed that the rest of the law should stand:
Elections have consequences, as this case reminds us. Although the rationales offered for the State’s different treatment of collective bargaining for “public safety” employees and “general” employees seem flimsy to me, the highly deferential rational-basis review requires that we uphold the principal provisions of Wisconsin’s Act 10 against equal protection challenges. This is particularly true where the federal Constitution would not prevent the State from removing all collective bargaining rights of public employees. I therefore join the portion of the judgment upholding the new statutory limits on the subject matters of collective bargaining for the general employees. For essentially the same reasons, I also concur in the portion of the judgment upholding the unprecedented recertification provisions for unions representing “general” employees, although the reasons for those provisions were not presented to the district court.