by Timothy Edwards
In what may likely be a temporary victory for public unions in the state of Wisconsin, a Dane County judge declared that Governor Scott Walker’s restrictions to the collective bargaining rights of specific government employees (Act 10) are unconstitutional. The court’s decision is not the last word on this politically charged topic. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has already upheld Act 10 on other grounds, is likely to overrule some, if not all, of the trial court’s decision. The Walker administration will seek to postpone implementation of the trial court’s decision pending an appeal. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will likely take the case before any intermediate review by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
Act 10 includes a number of provisions that curtail — and in some instances eliminate — the right of specific employees to engage in collective bargaining, deduct dues for general employee unions, obtain wage increases over the cost of living, and obtain certification. Act 10 also limits “fair share” dues agreements (an agreement that all members of a bargaining unit pay a proportionate share of the costs of bargaining) to public safety and transit unions. Finally, Act 10 prohibits the city of Milwaukee from making pension fund contributions that represent the employees’ share. These specific provisions are the most controversial provisions in Act 10 and have set the stage for a heated disagreement about the proper role of public-sector unions in the state.