Federal Judge Strikes Down Portions of Act 10

Posted March 30, 2012

A federal court judge today struck down portions of Governor Walker's collective bargaining reforms.

Several unions brought equal protection and First Amendment challenges alleging that the State had no rational justification for discriminating between "public safety workers" (mostly police and fire) and "general workers."  WILL, along with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, represents several public employees who support Act 10's changes, and filed an amicus brief in the case.

The judge first concluded that the State had a rational reason to exempt public safety workers from the restriction on collective bargaining to the topic of base wages - that such changes could lead to strikes, endangering Wisconsin citizens.  He therefore upheld those changes.  The judge went on to conclude, however, that for some unexplained reason, the exact same rational justification did not apply to exempting public safety workers from: (a) annual recertification elections; and (b) the prohibition against voluntary dues checkoff.  The prohibition against public unions compelling non-members to pay dues was not at issue in this case, and remains in force.

The judge failed to address WILL's argument that if the court found the public safety worker exception violates equal protection, the proper remedy would be for the court to strike the exception (thereby applying Act 10 in full to those unions), not reverse the changes made to the vast majority of public employees by extending the exception to all public employees.

The opinion is available here.