Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Law Because It Makes It Harder to Force Workers Into Unions
On Friday, a state court judge in Wisconsin struck down virtually all of Scott Walker's collective bargaining reform as a violation of both the US and Wisconsin constitutions. Happy Constitution Day, indeed!
The decision is a thinly veiled piece of judicial activism by Judge Juan Colas, who was appointed by the former Democratic Governor, Jim Doyle. How exactly does the reform infringe the "associational and speech rights" of municipal union members? Well, it prohibits municipal unions from collectively bargaining on non-wage benefits (they can still bargain on wages); it prohibits unions from forcing non-union members to pay part of the union's expenses (for the privilege of being represented by a union they want no part of), and it prohibits unions from automatically deducting union dues from payrolls. Got that? It's a violation of free speech to make the union ask its members for their dues.
I confess, I had to read Judge Colas' opinion several times to discover his rationale. It appears to be this single sentence on page 15: "Although the statutes do not prohibit speech or associational activities, the statutes do impose burdens on employees' exercise of those rights when they do so for the purpose of recognition of their association as an exclusive bargaining agent."
What a gloriously convoluted sentence! The reality is: the law dethrones municipal unions in Wisconsin from their former status as all-powerful closed shops, and finally gives employees the freedom to join, or not, municipal unions. Judge Colas casts this not as a burden on the unions, but on employees' right to associate for the purpose of forming a "closed shop" By this logic, every "right to work" law in the country violates the First Amendment.
This decision (and another recent one by an Obama-appointed federal court overturning parts of Act 10) are desperate rearguard actions by Democratic partisans. Under Walker's reforms, more than half of the Wisconsin members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union have dropped out. So have a third of the American Federation of Teachers members in the state. All those dutiful employees who have been forced to subsidize Democratic campaigns are heading for tthe exits.
The idea that Walker has violated workers' rights by giving them a real choice as to whether to join a union is preposterous. I predict this will ultimately be reversed on appeal.
The case is Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Scott Walker.