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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

The Vindication Of Act 10

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Yesterday's ruling upholding Act 10 in its entirety doesn't end the legal challenges to Governor Scott Walker's collective bargaining reforms, but it is a major victory ... as the reactions from both sides make abundantly clear.

The governor is clearly savoring the sweet vindication:

"As we’ve said all along, Act 10 is constitutional.

"Today’s court ruling is a victory for Wisconsin taxpayers. The provisions contained in Act 10, which have been upheld in federal court, were vital in balancing Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion budget deficit without increasing taxes, without massive public employee layoffs, and without cuts to programs like Medicaid." 

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The Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty puts the ruling in context, noting that the appeals court had ruling that  "none of Act 10’s provisions violated the U.S. Constitution."

The court’s decision reverses a district court decision that had invalidated two provisions of Act 10: the prohibition on payroll deductions for union dues and the annual recertification election.

Unions had argued that those two provisions, as well as the law’s limitation of the scope of collective bargaining to base wages, violated the freedom of speech and equal protection clauses of the Constitution. The Seventh Circuit soundly rejected this argument.

According to the court’s opinion, “States are under no obligation to aid the unions in their political activities” by providing payroll deductions for union dues. The court noted that “Wisconsin was free to impose any of Act 10’s restrictions on all unions.” The court held that the legislature had a rational and valid reason for passing Act 10 because, as the court said, “Act 10 exhibits a rational belief that public sector unions are too costly for the state.”

This decision, if not successfully appealed to the entire Seventh Circuit sitting en banc or the United States Supreme Court, will lift the lower court’s injunction against those two provisions of Act 10, restoring them to active operation nearly statewide. Although Dane County Judge Juan Colas has held that much of Act 10 is unconstitutional, he did not enjoin its enforcement and it is doubtful that his opinion, which is on appeal, is binding on anyone other than the parties to that case.

“This ruling is exactly what our clients have been fighting for over the past 18 months, said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of WILL, “Act 10 preserves their right to be treated as the professionals they are, working under terms agreeable to them not reached in secret backroom negotiations between government entities and unions. They can now freely associate or not associate with whatever unions or professional organizations they choose.”

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