Judge Voids Wisconsin Law Curbing Unions
Judge Maryann Sumi of
The Senate could choose to pass the bill again while assuring proper notice. But some political experts said a new vote might meet numerous obstacles. Some Democrats could flee the state again, and some Republican senators are facing recall elections.
The law, which Governor Walker proposed and vigorously pushed, and which generated huge protests in Madison, the state capital, bars public-sector unions, except those representing police officers and firefighters, from bargaining over health benefits and pensions. It allows bargaining over wages, but does not permit raises higher than the inflation rate unless they are approved in a public referendum.
The Senate’s 19 Republicans approved the measure, 18 to 1, in less than half an hour, without debate on the floor or a single Democrat in the room. They rushed the vote after weeks of boisterous pro-union rallies in
Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican Senate majority leader, criticized Judge Sumi’s decision.
“There’s still a much larger separation-of-powers issue
Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers’ union, applauded the decision, saying the law was intended to “bust unions.”
“In the wake of this ruling, state lawmakers should back down and not take another run at this divisive legislation,” she said in a statement. “It is not in the best interest of students, schools or
Republican senators asserted that they had enacted the bargaining law under emergency conditions, making it unnecessary to comply with the open meetings law. But Judge Sumi said she found no official evidence of emergency conditions or notice.
“This case is the exemplar of values protected by the open meetings law
She said the evidence demonstrated a failure to obey even the two-hour notice allowed for good cause if a 24-hour notice was impossible or impractical.
Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Mr. Walker, declined to comment, saying the Senate vote did not directly involve the governor.
Judge Sumi rejected the Republicans’ claims that the open meetings law did not allow bills passed by the Legislature to be struck down, only laws by lesser bodies. She also rejected the idea that the law was so important that it should stand despite the open meetings violation.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs