When Dane Country Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas held officials in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration in contempt this week, he was pushing back against a level of unchecked lawlessness by this administration that is “practically seditious,” says attorney Lester Pines.
Colas had already ruled a year ago that parts of Act 10 — the law that ended most collective bargaining rights for most public employees — were unconstitutional. This included Act 10’s requirement that unions hold annual recertification elections. But commissioners at the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission decided to ignore that decision. They went ahead and prepared for recertification elections for more than 400 school district and worker unions in November.
“The commissioners knew full well” they were flouting the court, Colas said, despite their cute argument that the word “unconstitutional” applied only to the specific plaintiffs in the case — teachers in Madison and city workers in Milwaukee.
As John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., put it, Colas’ decision “is one of the most important decisions not only in public-sector labor history, but also in democracy.”
The principle here is simple. If a law is unconstitutional on its face, it’s unconstitutional in every case. That has always been understood in Wisconsin courts. And, Judge Colas pointed out, the Walker officials understood it, too.