Seven unions representing teachers and other public workers in Wisconsin filed a lawsuit Thursday attempting to end the state’s near-total ban on collective bargaining for most public employees.
The 2011 law, known as Act 10, has withstood numerous legal challenges over the past dozen years and was the signature legislative achievement of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who used it to mount a presidential run.
The latest lawsuit is the first since the Wisconsin Supreme Court flipped to liberal control in August. But it was filed in a county circuit court — unlike other major cases that have gone directly to the Supreme Court since its ideological shift — and will likely take more than a year to make its way up for a final ruling.
The Act 10 law effectively ended collective bargaining for most public unions by allowing them to bargain solely over base wage increases no greater than inflation. It also disallowed the automatic withdrawal of union dues, required annual recertification votes for unions, and forced public workers to pay more for health insurance and retirement benefits.
The decision to file the case in Dane County court means it could be months or longer before it winds up before the state Supreme Court, if the high court even decides to take the case.
In March, Protasiewicz told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she believed Act 10 was unconstitutional but also said she might recuse herself after signing a petition to recall Walker over the issue.
Without Protasiewicz, the court could deadlock at 3-3 on the issue, raising questions about what the outcome of the case might be.
WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg, stated, “For the better part of the last 12 years, no piece of legislation has loomed larger in public policy debates in Wisconsin than Act 10, the collective bargaining reform law passed in 2011. The ‘Budget Repair Bill,’ introduced by Governor Scott Walker in the first weeks of his first term, represented a fundamental break with the past and a new era for state and local governments in the Badger State and the country. Since then, WILL has been on the forefront of examining the impact of Act 10 on education, the teaching workforce, and puncturing the myths that persist about the law. Now with a new lawsuit, we stand ready to defend the law in the court of law and in the court of public opinion. Because make no mistake, an end to Act 10 would have a devastating effect on the budgets of school districts, municipalities, and Wisconsin’s overall fiscal stability.”