On May 26 a misguided Circuit court judge voided a Wisconsin bill that ended collective bargaining rights of public union workers because the vote violated an open meeting law.

The state supreme court heard arguments from both sides on June 6th and a common-sense ruling came yesterday: Wisconsin Court Reinstates Law on Union Rights

The Wisconsin Supreme Court cleared the way on Tuesday for significant cuts to collective bargaining rights for public workers in the state, undoing a lower court’s decision that Wisconsin’s controversial law had been passed improperly.

The ruling was 4 to 3, split along what many viewed as the court’s predictable conservative-liberal line. One of the dissenting justices even raised the specter of a “partisan slant” by the other side.

The majority of the justices concluded that a lower court was wrong when it found that the Legislature had forced through the cuts in collective bargaining without giving sufficient notice — 24 hours — under the state’s open-meetings requirements. The measure passed in early March, three weeks after the State Senate’s Democrats fled to Illinois to block the vote from occurring.

In its written decision, the court cited the importance of the separation of powers, and said the Legislature had not violated the state’s Constitution when it relied on its “interpretation of its own rules of proceeding” and gave slightly less than two hours’ notice before meeting and voting. In the end, the provision passed without the attendance of any of the Senate’s 14 Democrats.

The interesting thing about the procedural move by the Democrats was that not a single Democrat voter was needed but enough senators were not present to make the vote binding. Republicans got around that with a procedural move of their own, stripping the bill of legislation that required a quorum to vote.

New Lawsuit Filed Already

That should have settled the issue but labor leaders now argue the bill discriminates against various classes of public union workers.

Please consider New lawsuit filed against Wisconsin union law.

Wisconsin state employees will start paying more for their health care and pension benefits in late August, state officials said Wednesday as a coalition of unions filed a new lawsuit against the GOP-supported plan that strips away collective bargaining rights from most public workers.

The law also requires workers to pay 12 percent of their health insurance costs and 5.8 percent of their pension costs, which amount to an 8 percent pay cut on average.

But the legal battle was not yet over. A coalition of unions filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday arguing that the law violated the U.S. Constitution by taking away union rights to bargain, organize and associate and illegally discriminates among classes of public employees. The lawsuit seeks to block portions of the law taking away collective bargaining rights, but allows the higher pension and health care contributions that the unions agreed to take to move forward.

“Scott Walker has created two classes of public sector workers and that is unconstitutional,” said Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt. “When a legislature discriminates among classes of workers, especially when doing so has more to do with political payback than with any legitimate reasoning, the law has been violated.”

Fair Solution Proposed

I am all in favor of solving the “two class” issue fairly and squarely. It’s theoretically a trivial matter to ending class distinctions totally and permanently. The best way to do that is to get rid of public union workers and collective bargaining entirely.

Rather than have states battle these issues one-by-one, national right-to-work laws together with repealing Davis-Bacon and all prevailing wages laws would be a nice start.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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