Judge again blocks Wisconsin's anti-union law

MADISON, Wisconsin Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:03am EDT

Massive crowds gather to see the 14 democratic senators that left the state to protest the bill proposed by the Gov. Scott Walker at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, March 12, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Hauck

Massive crowds gather to see the 14 democratic senators that left the state to protest the bill proposed by the Gov. Scott Walker at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, March 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Hauck

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MADISON, Wisconsin (Reuters) - A Wisconsin judge issued a revised order on Tuesday blocking implementation of a controversial state law curbing collective bargaining by public unions while she hears a legal challenge to the proposed law.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi, who issued an injunction two weeks ago blocking the law, issued an amended order barring Secretary of State Doug La Follette from doing anything that would result in the measure from taking effect.

The measure, known as Wisconsin Act 10, was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker earlier this month. It bans collective bargaining by most public employees on anything other than base wages, and even those are tightly regulated.

Walker, who strongly pushed the legislation, said it was necessary part of a broader package to combat what he says is the state's $3.6 billion budget deficit.

The fight over the Wisconsin law turned the state into a national flashpoint in much larger battle over workers rights amid huge state budget deficits and debt burdens. Protesters occupied the Wisconsin state capitol for weeks and staged the biggest demonstrations in Madison since the Vietnam War.

Other states are watching the Wisconsin battle. An Ohio House committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would restrict collective bargaining rights for about 350,000 public employees and ban them from striking.

The Wisconsin law has prompted several legal challenges, including the one Sumi is hearing filed by the Dane County district attorney, who alleges the Republican legislators who passed the law broke the state's strict Open Meetings Laws.

The state Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in on the dispute but has so far not signaled whether it will do so.

Two weeks ago, Sumi issued an injunction halting the publication of the law by the secretary of state, the final step before it would take effect.

But last Friday, a state agency published the law despite Sumi's original order, and Walker's administration has begun to implement the measure's provisions.

Walker insists the publication by the Legislative Reference Bureau means the law is now in effect. His lawyers also say the LRB's action did not violate Sumi's injunction since the agency was not specifically mentioned in the restraining order.

But Judge Sumi's Tuesday order states: "La Follette, in his official capacity, is enjoined from designating the date of publication for 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, or any further implementation of 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, including but without limitation publishing in the official state newspaper ... until further order of the court."

The LRB is a nonpartisan agency whose director is appointed by the leaders of the Wisconsin State Assembly and Wisconsin State Senate -- both Republicans who support the measure.

Democrats, organized labor and other opponents of the measure disagree and say the publication has no legal significance and that the law cannot take effect until their legal challenge is heard and La Follete officially publishes the act in the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper.

If the law is upheld, many of the things public workers now bargain for through their unions, including health insurance, pension benefits, work hours, vacation time and other conditions of employment, will have to be negotiated on a case-by-case by the individual workers themselves.

A spokesman for J.B. Van Hollen, the state attorney general who has been defending the law, said he was disappointed by the latest order and considering his options.

"As we told the court, we have serious concerns about the court's decision to continue these proceedings under the current set of circumstances," Bill Cosh said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jeff Mayers; Writing by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Peter Bohan)

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Comments (3)
Majick1 wrote:
So Republicans are above the law and think we should be bound by their laws. They are trying to eventually have workers laboring away for free at corporations that will pay no taxes and that will solve the Republican’s financial shortfall. The workers will have the opportunity to bargain individually to get fired for being unhappy with their wages.

Mar 29, 2011 9:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
BringJobsBack wrote:
Walker and his pals should be jailed for their defiance of the judges order AND un-american activities. Obama is fighting in Libya – Who will fight for Americans?

Mar 29, 2011 12:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
limapie wrote:
Judges orders are suppose to take the confusion out of procedures and laws. This judge didn’t do that. She knows that she goofed. She didn’t write her orders like a good law person would have written them and now the law has been published and is in effect.

I have two teachers for neighbors. They are married and started a family. They were blessed with two children whose births earned them about $200,000 in free money from the tax payers. By having the babies on the first day of school, they could have six months off each.
So, $50,000 per year X two children x two teachers = about $200,000.
Our tax dollars ALSO had to purchase substitute teachers for them
while they were home on family leave.

Most married people work opposite shifts so that they can raise
a family. Most people HAVE to work opposite shifts because they need to pay the high taxes it takes to pay teachers to stay home!

These aren’t poor working conditions. OM goodness. My neighbors and
the other thousands like them are ABUSING their situations
and being hogs.

The normal tax payer has complaints, too. WE ARE BEING TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF and now, we’re asking that it stop.

Mar 29, 2011 12:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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