Latest Solidarity Issue

Wisconsin’s conservative high court green-lights anti-worker bill

06/20/11

Wisconsin workers opposed to Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators’ anti-union budget repair bill protested at the Capitol Tuesday, June 14, the same day the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that the bill’s passage violated the state’s constitution.

With lightening speed, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided to let stand Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill that takes away public workers’ collective bargaining rights.

The June 14 ruling, issued the same day the case was considered by the justices, tracks the court’s 4-3 conservative majority and overturns a lower court decision that halted implementation of the anti-union, anti-middle class budget bill.

In May, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled that in passing the governor’s budget bill – which includes a measure stripping teachers, nurses and all other public employees (except police and firefighters who supported Walker’s 2010 election) of their bargaining rights – the Republican-controlled legislature violated the state’s open meeting law, and issued a permanent injunction against the bill.

The majority justices found GOP legislators did not violate the constitutional provision that states “all meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.”

In her dissenting opinion (pg.37), Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said the majority justices "make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties' arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891.”

Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites have been protesting at the state Capitol since the budget bill was first introduced in February, and opponents have vowed to fight on. To that end, on June 15 a broad coalition of Wisconsin unions filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The suit charges that the budget repair bill violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution by stripping away basic rights from most Wisconsin public sector employees to bargain, organize and associate to engage in union and political activity.

UAW Region 4 Director Ron McInroy said the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision has more to do with partisan politics than upholding the law. “They are basically sending the message that Governor Walker and the Republicans in the Statehouse can do whatever they want because the rule of law doesn’t apply to them,” McInroy said.

“But the people of Wisconsin who work hard and play by the rules will not be silenced,” he said. “They will have the final say by voting against the Republicans facing recall elections because of their extreme anti-worker, pro-wealthy votes.” Recall elections for six Republican senators will take place July 12.