Wisconsin will seek to enforce union law while appealing ruling

Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:16pm EDT

A union iron worker attends a rally outside of the Capitol building to protest against a proposed bill by Republican Governor Scott Walker in Madison, Wisconsin February 21, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Hauck

A union iron worker attends a rally outside of the Capitol building to protest against a proposed bill by Republican Governor Scott Walker in Madison, Wisconsin February 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Hauck

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(Reuters) - Wisconsin's controversial law that limited the rights of many public-sector union workers should stay in place while the state appeals a judge's ruling that found parts of the measure unconstitutional, the state's attorney general said on Saturday.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he would appeal Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas' ruling striking down parts of the law approved by the Republican-led Legislature last year.

"We also will be seeking a stay of Friday's decision pending appeal in order to allow the law to continue in effect as it has for more than a year while the appellate courts address the legal issues," Van Hollen said in a statement.

Republican Governor Scott Walker pressed for the sweeping changes to union rules as part of a package to eliminate a state budget deficit.

The proposals sparked massive union-backed protests at the state Capitol in Madison and efforts to recall Walker. Walker easily survived a recall election in June and has become a champion for fiscal conservatives.

Colas' ruling stemmed from challenges brought by unions that represent Madison school teachers and Milwaukee city employees. The immediate effect of his ruling is unclear.

Colas ruled that eliminating collective bargaining rights for municipal employees including teachers violated the workers' right to free speech, association and equal protection.

He also found that the law's requirement that Milwaukee city workers make pension contributions violated a home-rule provision in the state constitution.

The law has forced most public-sector union workers, including teachers, to pay more for health insurance and pensions, limited their pay raises, made payment of union dues voluntary and forced unions to be recertified every year.

There have been several legal challenges to the law. A federal judge in March blocked the provision that dealt with voluntary collection of dues and annual recertification votes.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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