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Wisconsin Anti-Union Law Struck Down

A state judge has overturned most of the state law pushed and signed by Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin that effectively ended the right to form unions and collectively bargain for public employees in that state. ABC News reports:

In his 27-page ruling, the judge said sections of the law “single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions.”

Colas also said the law violates the equal protection clause by creating separate classes of workers who are treated differently and unequally.

Both of those things are clearly true. The law forbids public employee unions from bargaining over safety rules, vacation, health benefits and practically anything else. It does allow them to bargain on pay, but only within strict confines (no pay increase greater than the rate of inflation is allowed). Walker gave the predictable response:

Walker issued a statement accusing the judge of being a “liberal activist” who “wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.”

Congratulations, you’ve applied the predictable label of “liberal activist” to the judge. Now how about making an argument for why the judge is wrong?

Comments

  1. steve oberski says

    I’m pretty sure that most government employee unions have closed shop, the employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed.

    So in what sense do those employees “choose union membership” ?

  2. says

    …wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor.

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the court mandated to judge the constitutionality of the laws passed by the legislature and the governor? It seems it’s Gov. Walker who is attempting to go backwards, to a time in which the government acted unilaterally, without the checks and balances of the three arms of the government.

  3. ArtK says

    I can understand (but deplore) when an ordinary citizen doesn’t get the role of the courts in cases like this. The idea of democracy is hard enough to understand, but having some group that can come in and “undo” what you have done is tough to grasp.

    For a governor to have problems with that, whether this is actual ignorance on his part or pandering to the know-nothings in his audience, is inexcusable.

    I’m sure that someone can find instances of Governor Walker cheering the courts when the result was something he wanted — say, overturning a Democrat-created law.

  4. says

    “Forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the court mandated to judge the constitutionality of the laws passed by the legislature and the governor?”

    Well that’s what has essentially happened. I would think thogh that there should be some kind of vetting process that goes through the judiciary before a bill is put before the vote. That’s how so much anti-woman legislation got pushed through. No way any of that would have passed the test of law

  5. says

    Steve,

    This is State by State. Some are probably closed and others aren’t, depending on State law.

    Feds are not closed shop, we have the option to join or not.

  6. says

    Shouldn’t pro free-market types love unions? It’s people banding together to privately negotiate to advance their interests instead of involving the government. They are supposed to love that shit.

  7. schmeer says

    If this decision is appealed and then upheld by the Supreme Court then it would overturn a MA law taking away our right to collectively bargain over healthcare. (Passed by a large number of Democrats.) Maybe that will happen before I retire in about 20 years.

  8. M Groesbeck says

    Ace of Sevens @ 7 –

    Unions aren’t people banding together, though — they’re labor banding together. People have rights insofar as they are owners of capital, as all value is due to the actions of owners (i.e. “job creators”). For the market to function, labor must be a voiceless and entirely interchangeable commodity. Labor acting like people is a threat to the whole system.

  9. rork says

    @2: When I was in a union we formed it and ran it democratically.

    There’s been much bad information about having closed shop, and Orwellian-sounding “right to work” laws, but not permitting closed shops gives management way to many tools to break unions. Members collectively benefit from union-bargained contracts, and legal actions, so why should some of the beneficiaries be able to freeload? If they don’t like what their union is doing they should try and change it.

  10. leni says

    One of the things that bothered me most about this law is that it did not apply to police and fire unions, so the seperate class of workers is not just public vs private. Perhaps I’m being over-cynical, but I can’t bring myself to believe the fact that teaching is more of a “female” or “liberal” profession had nothing to do with it. Of course they weren’t the only state workers affected, but they were the ones vilified most by Walker and his supporters.

    I just can’t really believe that was an accident.

  11. says

    M Groesbeck,

    People aren’t people when they work. Because before the unions, when “labor [was] a voiceless and entirely interchangeable commodity” things ran perfectly right? We already done the experiment. It was called the 1880′s.

  12. plutosdad says

    What I was most surprised to learn was that about 25 other states have almost the same exact law. They all seem pretty clear violations of the right of assembly to me.

    You don’t have to like or agree with the unions at all, but that has nothing to do with whether people have a right to assemble and delegate bargaining on whatever they choose.

    There are certainly abuses in Wisconsin by the unions, like forcing daycare workers to pay union dues even when they aren’t in the union, or forcing the schools to pay huge amounts to use union approved vendors for certain things. But all of that could have been handled differently without taking away people’s rights.

  13. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I have discovered a recently published book that might just change how you think of social justice and Christianity. – vickychase

    Why would it? Christianity is what Christians and Christian institutions have actually said and done, how they have affected the world. Even if the claims made in the book you refer to are well-supported (which I doubt), that would not change Christianity’s historical record of authoritarianism, misogyny, homophobia, persecution and irrationality.

  14. yoav says

    @leni #11
    There is also the point that the police and fire unions endorsed Walker while the other public sector unions endorsed the Democrats, he must have been pissed when the cops and fire fighters didn’t buy his divide and conquer strategy and joined the other union in the protest against him.

  15. says

    “There are certainly abuses in Wisconsin by the unions, like forcing daycare workers to pay union dues even when they aren’t in the union, or forcing the schools to pay huge amounts to use union approved vendors for certain things.”

    Are there citations for those claims?

    I worked at Verizon for almost eight years and I was in the union for all but three months of that period. I did not have to join the union, but I would have had dues deducted from my check whether I joined or not. When an office was being fucked over by management and there was a mix of union and non-bargained associates in the office, the union fought for all of them. Union and non-union associates received the same pay and benefits–the $3 or so initial fee + 1% of the wage was the cost of belonging to the union. In my experience, as much as I despised some union practices and “brothers”, it was worth every dime.

  16. Chiroptera says

    plutosdad, #12: …like forcing daycare workers to pay union dues even when they aren’t in the union….

    Are you sure they were forced to pay dues? I’m asking, because sometimes people get confused as to the financial obligations when non-union members are also covered by the collective bargaining agreement.

    Back when I was covered under a collective bargaining agreement, all employees covered had to pay to help cover the costs to the union in negotiating and implementing the agreement (including the grievance procedures, which was open to non-members where I was at). It wasn’t the full dues; the non-members weren’t responsible for purely union expenses like union elections, membership meetings, labor day celebrations, and so forth, but they were required to pay their fair share of the benefits they got from the collective bargaining agreement.

    There will be some who will still claim that it’s not fair either, but it’s not quite the same as paying full dues.

  17. leni says

    @yoav, yeah there is that, and it goes a long way to explaining Walker’s actions. It doesn’t explain why teachers make such convenient targets though.

    I was at several of the protests, and it warmed the cockles of my black liberal heart to see the Police and Fire union members there to support :)

  18. Chiroptera says

    M Groesbeck, #8: For the market to function, labor must be a voiceless and entirely interchangeable commodity. Labor acting like people is a threat to the whole system.

    Heh. I’ve always said that free market capitalism and Soviet style communism both share this same fundamental failing.

  19. corkscrew says

    Shouldn’t pro free-market types love unions? It’s people banding together to privately negotiate to advance their interests instead of involving the government. They are supposed to love that shit.

    It’s people banding together to form a monopoly on labour. Free-market types are generally anti-monopoly, because they remove market pressure.

    I happen to think that unions are generally a “good” anti-market action. If transistor companies are forced to manufacture at the lowest possible cost due to competitive pressure, that’s good because we get computers. If the average Joe or Jane is forced to work at the lowest possible cost, that’s bad cos their kids go hungry.

    But that’s an exception to my free-market views, not a consequence of them.

  20. Michael Heath says

    corkscrew writes:

    Free-market types are generally anti-monopoly

    I do not observe conservatives who assert they’re free marketers, which is nearly all of them, act in a way that is anything but pro-monopoly. Unless that monopoly is the government.

  21. Quantum Mechanic says

    M Groesbeck @ 8:

    Well, if you think of workers as owners who own their labor, then I suppose unions could be thought of as a supply-side economic force that tries to maximize the profit for labor suppliers…

    Why do all of these Republican politicians want to strangle the free market with their endless regulations?

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