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U.S. District Court Judge William Conley struck down several portions of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's bill assaulting the rights of working families. While the judge allowed the elimination of collective bargaining rights to stand, two other key provisions were ruled unconstitutional. The first prohibited public sector workers from having union dues taken from their paychecks via payroll deduction. The second, and more important, portion of the bill to be struck was one that required annual recertification of unions to be held and that anyone who did not vote in the elections, for whatever reason, would be counted as "no" votes, requiring any recertification to get 50 percent plus one of all employees, not just those voting.
“So long as the State of Wisconsin continues to afford ordinary certification and dues deductions to mandatory public safety unions with sweeping bargaining rights, there is no rational basis to deny those rights to voluntary general unions with severely restricted bargaining rights,” wrote U.S. District Judge William M. Conley.
In other words, since Walker cynically decided to exempt popular worker categories such as firefighters and police officers in an attempt to avoid negative public opinion, he created two separate categories for public employee unions and the rules they must abide by. According to the ruling, this violates the equal protection clause.
And while this is a step in the right direction, it isn't good enough:
But the fight is far from over. While these two provisions are temporarily stalled, the rest of Act 10 is fully in effect. Wisconsin’s teachers, nurses, and other public workers are still without their full collective bargaining rights, giving them little to no control over their wages and workplaces. The state is still suffering from massive unemployment, while the chief executive spends his time jet-setting around the country raising funds from super-wealthy donors. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the destructive policies of Scott Walker, his State Senate enablers, and his massively well-monied sponsors like David and Charles Koch.
Further reaction comes from others fighting against Walker and his anti working-families agenda. Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:
This proves that Gov. Walker rammed through his radical and secret agenda without regard to the U.S. constitution, the rule of law or to what is right and fair for Wisconsin families. There is still much to be done to reverse the harm that Gov. Walker has done to nurses, teachers, snow plow drivers and other public workers. The fight to fully restore public employees’ voices on the job and a strong middle class for Wisconsin continues.
We Are Wisconsin:
While we're pleased that Scott Walker's transparent attempts to destroy his political opponents have been ruled illegal under the First Amendment, this ruling only raises the stakes for the upcoming recall elections. The reality remains Walker lied his way into office by concealing plans to wipe out 50 years of collective bargaining, and the fight continues until workers' rights to negotiate for fair wages and safe working conditions are fully restored.
In related news, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will challenge Walker in the governor's upcoming recall election.