On Friday, March 30, 2012, Judge William Conley in the federal district court for the Western District of Wisconsin found significant parts of Act 10, Wisconsin’s radical reform of public employees’ right to engage in collective bargaining, unconstitutional:
· The Court found the requirement for annual recertification votes in which 51% of the employees must vote every year to recertify – an absolute majority rather than a majority of those voting – to be unprecedented. The state provided no rational basis for imposing this extreme requirement on general employees but not on public safety employees who retain bargaining rights. On this basis, the Court ruled that the annual recertification requirement is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.
· The Court also ruled unconstitutional Act 10’s prohibition on voluntary dues deduction for general public employees. The Court noted that dues deduction was prohibited for all general employee unions, none of which endorsed Walker in the 2010 election. Dues deduction remains permitted for public safety employees and, as the Court notes, “all of the unions that endorsed Walker fall within the public safety category.” As the Court wrote, “…the State’s interest in avoiding the reality or appearance of favoritism or entanglement with partisan politics – is the very reason this court cannot uphold the State of Wisconsin’s apparent, if not actual, favoritism and entanglement in partisan politics by discriminating in favor of fundraising efforts on behalf of public safety unions over general employee unions.”
· The Court did not find the restriction on collective bargaining to everything except total base wages for general employees to be a denial of equal protection and this portion of the law is not enjoined.
Hawks Quindel Attorneys Timothy Hawks, Barbara Quindel and Aaron Halstead served as counsel for Plaintiff Unions AFT – Wisconsin, SEIU Healthcare and AFSCME, District Council 40. Additional plaintiffs included WEAC, AFSCME District Councils 24 and 40, and the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. Significant contributions were also made by Attorneys Richard Saks, Michele Sumara, and Jeffrey Sweetland.
The Order of the Court is subject to appeal in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.