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Collective Bargaining Decision Angers Conservatives, Pleases Unions

As news of Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas' decision to strike down the state's collective bargaining law spread, liberals marked the ruling a win while conservatives took issue with it.

Just hours after Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas decided that the state’s , reaction from liberals and conservatives erupted.

According to our media partners at FOX 6 News, Colas ruled Act 10 — the budget repair bill — as null and void because the law violates both the state and U.S. constitutions. Specifically, the law violates the guarantee of freedom of speech and citizens' freedom of association.

The news heated up Wisconsin liberals and conservatives on social media sites, caused outrage and praise from elected officials, and pleased top union officials.

A event page titled We Aren’t Backing Down! Tell Wisconsin Union Judges NO! was posted by a group called Founders’ Intent and advocated for a protest at the State Capitol on Sept. 22.

On the event Facebook page, Kristie Formolo wrote: How many times do we have to shove it in their out of touch liberal faces. Wisconsin is moving forward... We are tired of liberals ruining our state and our country. We will be heading to Madison for the rally, then we will stop and do a little shopping at Hobby Lobby and finish it off with a meal at Chick-Fil-A in Racine!

But on the Wisconsin Education Association Council website, Sandra Angell Buxton posted: Thank God "Some Circuit Court Judge in Dane Co" realizes the law violates the constitutional equal protection clause by creating separate classes of state workers who are treated differently and unequally under the law.

Union officials tout decision as a win

Jason Hempel, an executive board member on the Wisconsin Professional Fire Fighters Association, said Colas’ decision acknowledges the hardship that the Act 10 law placed on public employees, specifically how one group was required to recertify and others did not.

“I think it’s a win for the working people of Wisconsin,” he said. “We feel confident that, in the event of an appeal, it should hold up to this judges' decison. It also shows how Scott Walker has treated the middle class, that basically he’s doing things that are against the Constitution and he is being unfair to people.”

Christina Brey, spokeswoman for WEAC, agreed with Hempel. Brey released the following statement:

“This is a sound decision by the court that upholds what we’ve been saying all along — Act 10 violates our members’ constitutional rights. The decision in the suit, which was filed by Madison Teachers’ Incorporated and funded by the Wisconsin Education Association Council and the National Education Association, is a positive development.

"We understand there are more steps ahead, but the fact that the decision upholds what we have said all along, Act 10 violates our members’ constitutional rights, this is a court decision we embrace.”

Budget nightmares remain

Caledonia Village President Ron Coutts said the law change doesn’t change the budgeting process, but the decision will likely impact the number of bargaining units they’ll need to negotiate with and what aspects of the contract they’ll be able to bargain.

“We also haven’t settled our contracts with our police and fire unions and it may have an effect on the mediation and arbitration process,” Coutts said. “I imagine this means we’ll have the possibility of losing cases.

“It does change the whole landscape of the village and it’s a win for the unions, but we're having our first budget meeting on Monday and this decision is going to be a real part of the discussion. I have a feeling it’s going to have an impact on the budget. How? I don’t know until I get the details."

Village President Carolyn Milkie said she is wondering what, if any, impact the decision will make on the village as employees and trustees work on the budget for 2013.

"I think it's too early to speculate because I expect this matter to go through the appellate courts before anything final is determined," she said. "We will have to talk with our attorney to see if we need to take any special steps as we move through the budgeting process."

But Village President Steven Jansen is not worried.

"This will play out in the courts, but in the end, I think Act 10 will be upheld," he said. "This will not have an impact on how we approach the 2013 budget process."

Board president Dennis Wiser said Colas’ decision doesn’t impact the current budget because it doesn’t affect state funding.

“All it changes is the ability for unions to organize, but the cuts remain the same,” Wiser said. “In one perspective it's going to boost the moral of employees, but we’re just as short of cash as ever and our economic reality is just as stark as ever. Sure, we’ll have more people talking at the table, but the money in the pot is still small."

Wiser also questioned whether Colas’ decision would stand up to an appeal because the decision arrived at the conclusion that employees need to be treated the same. But Wiser pointed to the police and fire unions having different retirement rights as other public union members

“They can retire earlier and receive higher benefits,” he said. “So it’s always been different.”

State legislators follow party lines

Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Act 10 had already been litigated, but more importantly, state residents have re-affirmed over and over again their support of the measure.

"There have been multiple opportunities for residents to speak out about Act 10, and they have, through the recall elections, proven that they approve of the law," he said.

Like Gov. Walker, Vos is trying to understand how a circuit court judge's decision overrides that of a federal judge. He also is worried about what this new development means for municipalities going into budget meetings for 2013.

"It's not fair that a liberal Dane County judge could potentially throw the entire state into chaos now," Vos added. "This decision does not help a single child in school and endangers the sustainability of programs funded in the budget."

Overall, Vos said this was a political decision made by a political judge that might need to be stayed.

"Not only is this decision overreaching, but Judge Colas might have to stay his own decision since a higher court has already ruled on these matters," he stated.

State Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) fully supports Judge Colas' decision because it sends a clear message that Act 10 was illegal.

"The budget repair bill was never about patching a hole in the budget. It was strictly a targeted move at a political opponent," he said. "I'm glad the court caught them in the act of targeting certain groups that opposed Gov. Walker."

Lehman said the passage of Act 10 created an unnecessary emergency early in Walker's term that was unnecessary and now, it seems, illegal.

"Going after unions unnecessarily obviously created two classes: public employee union members and others. The punishing burden placed on union association was seen as obviously discriminatory," he explained. "The decision today restores an important element of fairness to Wisconsin and recognizes how the Republicans overstepped."

Election candidates offer opposing views

Candidates vying for the state's 13th Assembly District that includes Wauwatosa, Elm Grove and parts of Brookfield, disagreed with whether Act 10 should remain intact.

John Pokrandt, Democratic candidate, called the sweeping budget repair bill a political overreach.

"It was never about the budget. It was about a political agenda," Pokrandt said.

"No one disagrees that in these tough times concessions on wages and benefits were necessary. The unions were ready to negotiate but were never given the chance," Pokrandt said.

But Republican candidate Rob Hutton said the judge had ruled "against the will of the people" who backed Act 10 by rejecting the recall of Gov. Walker.

"Activist judges have long tried to overturn legislatures and this is another example of that," Hutton said. "I look forward to the state appealing this decision and hope the higher court makes a more accurate interpretation of the Constitution."

mau September 15, 2012 at 02:18 AM
How did Act 10 law "violates the guarantee of freedom of speech and citizens' freedom of association". They did not lose their freedom speech and they didn't ban unions. The law does not prohibit them from organizing a union or belonging to one. I'm assuming this judges decision also overturns the recall elections that were a result of Act 10.
GearHead September 15, 2012 at 02:42 AM
"State Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) fully supports Judge Colas' decision because it sends a clear message that Act 10 was illegal" Then so was his recall effort and subsequent disputed victory right? Being that he no longer even represents the "constituents" who bussed into Racine to elect him.
oak creek resident September 15, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Another liberal judge f*cks things up, temporarily, for the rest of the state. All these cities and counties spent a lot of time on their budgets, and even with Act 10, they had a hard time with the economy and all. Now this is just another hurdle to work around. Do they owe money back to some employees for 2012? How the he77 do they afford their budgets now for next year? Pathetic, just pathetic. Judges have no repercussions for their stupid decisions, too bad.
JW September 15, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Yeah... the decision doesnt make any sense on any level and reopens a can of worms that was already closed up....
Big Pete September 15, 2012 at 07:59 AM
The governor screwed up exempting firefighters and police. That's where the equal protection under the law comes in By exempting them he violated the law. That's why Milwaukee police and fire backed the governor. Just so happens that one of Walkers main advisors is Mike Gratz-- former union president for the Milwaukee Fire Dept. The big question now is will the legislators return and throw Milwaukee police and fire under the bus. If they do and include them then the suit is baseless.
YAMATO September 15, 2012 at 11:58 AM
LEFTY JUDGE,MADISON AREA, WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. TEMPORARY RULING. WHEN THE SUPRMEM COURT OR APPEAL PANEL GET THIS IT SHOULD BE OVER TURNED. KEEPING HOSTAGE TAXPAYER MONEY WHICH PAYS YOUR JOB IS WRONG. GO OUT AND TRY TO ACT IN PRIVATE SECTOR W/O UNION PROTECTION AND YOU WOULD GET FIRED. UNIONS SHOULD PROTECT STRONG WORKER THAT PERFORM IN THE JOB, NOT THE WEAK ONES IN THE NAME OF BROTHERHOOD.
Terry Van Parys September 15, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Shouldn't it be obvious that the citizens have spoken, twice? The non-sensical ruling goes directly against the will of the people. This union-backed judge needs to be recalled.
Terry Van Parys September 15, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Lehman has a chance to represent the people in his new district but he can't help himself. He is bought and paid for by big labor. He will be defeated handily once the voters in his district actually get to vote.
Jeff Frievalt September 15, 2012 at 04:42 PM
That's right, rile up the republican party again right before the election and guarentee obamas defeat in Wisconsin.
Scot Bartels September 15, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Other states have limits/bans on collective bargaining so the suggestion that what Walker did somehow violates the equal protection clause is a joke. If what Walker did violates the EP clause then what is done in many other states would also violate the EP clause. This also is not even taking into consideration that federal workers do not have collective bargaining powers so if what Walker did violates the EP clause then obvioulsy laws banning federal workers from having collective bargaining powers also violates the EP clause.
dee50 September 15, 2012 at 06:34 PM
"single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions." But I thought Walker and his tea party followers were dedicated to adhering to every word of the constitution. Looks like they must have skipped a line or two...
Lyle Ruble September 16, 2012 at 12:58 AM
I was a bit surprised to find that it took this long for a ruling on this particular aspect of Act-10. I had expected this kind of action much before now. Unlike the conservatives I see this as just another step in the process. For those who are claiming that the electorate have affirmed and reaffirmed Act-10 twice are mistaken. The failure of the recall of the governor was as much an initiative on the recall process itself. Through the senate recalls, the Republicans lost a total of three seats placing the majority in the senate with the Democrats. Neither of the senate recalls were determined by ACT-10 legislation, since an elected official can be recalled for any reason. The other claim being made is that this will unify the Republican base and guarantee Romney a victory in November. I might believe that, but for one small detail; the Republican base is still smaller by a few percentage points than the Democratic base. Also, you are counting on the independents to be as outraged as you are, but no one knows how they will receive this. In addition, presidential politics has it's own set of rules.
GearHead September 16, 2012 at 01:04 PM
November will return the senate to the GOP, which moots your first paragraph, excepting the 13MM wasted on it. As for your second, I don't have to worry about the independents being outraged; they have also lost jobs, seen their net worth dwindle, and no longer accept the argument this is still Bush's fault. They aren't that stupid.
Frances Martin September 16, 2012 at 01:52 PM
I wonder if any of the folks, bloggers here and elected officials of either party included, who have instant views on its either being "an activist judge", or a wonderful decision, have actually read the decision and considered the validity of its reasoning . Liking or disliking a judicial decision isn't the same as rationally analyzing its reasoning. I'd like to read the entire decision myself--anyone know where it's available online?
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) September 16, 2012 at 04:58 PM
All - you can find the full decision at The Wheeler Report: http://www.thewheelerreport.com/releases/September12/0914/0914mtivwalker.pdf
Scot Bartels September 16, 2012 at 09:10 PM
People who want to be in a union can still be in a union. Limiting what can be collectively bargainged for by those unions does not violate any rights. There are other states that do not allow any CB or unionization so clearly the US Constitution does not apply. To suggest that the freedom of speech or association is somehow infringed by what Walker did demonstrates a lack of understanding of what The US Constitution says. IF The US Constittuion says public workers have a "right" to unionize and collectively bargain for 'this', 'that' or 'whatever' why do federal workers not have the same rights?
morninmist September 16, 2012 at 11:23 PM
This analysis has lots of details and case studies in law to support the judges null and void decision: Emily Mills ‏@millbot Important read: "The Constitutional Challenge to Act 10 is Serious" http://law.marquette.edu/facultyblog/2012/09/16/the-constitutional-challenge-to-act-10-is-serious/#more-18496 #wiunion
GearHead September 17, 2012 at 03:00 PM
@Frances: this is settled law. The plaintiffs argument is nutty, and the judge's action is an overreach. But will he incur the wrath he deserves from his specious decision? Time will tell. Another hero was just made in some circles in Madistan.

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