[JURIST] Ten Wisconsin unions on Wednesday filed [press release] a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state’s new collective bargaining law. The lawsuit, which was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website], alleges that the Budget Repair Bill [Senate Bill 11 text, PDF] violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments [texts]. According to the plaintiffs, the bill discriminates among groups of public employees and eliminates basic union rights, like bargaining, organizing and associating. Phil Neuenfeldt, president of Wisconsin State AFL-CIO [official website], condemned Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker [official website] for implementing the law and described the law as unconstitutional:
Not only have Scott Walker and his deep-pocketed corporate allies sought to silence the voices of Wisconsin workers, they have also violated those workers constitutional rights. Scott Walker has created two classes of public sector workers and that is unconstitutional. When a legislature discriminates among classes of workers, especially when doing so has more to do with political payback than with any legitimate reasoning, the law has been violated.
The lawsuit seeks to enjoin several provisions of the Budget Repair Bill, namely, those that prohibit unions from bargaining and associating freely. The unions do not, however, seek to enjoin the pension and health insurance contribution requirements, acknowledging that “Wisconsin workers would do their part to share in the sacrifice and keep our state moving forward.”
The Budget Repair Bill requires state employees to contribute a percentage of their salaries to their pension and health care premiums, and eliminates the ability of public employee union members to collectively negotiate anything but wage increase, which will be capped by the Consumer Price Index. The Wisconsin Supreme Court [official website] upheld [opinion, text; JURIST report] the Budget Repair Bill on Tuesday, overruling the Dane County Circuit Court [official website] finding [JURIST report] that legislators had violated the “open meetings” rule. In March, the Dane County Circuit Court judge temporarily enjoined the law from being published, and then issued an order [JURIST reports] clarifying that the temporary restraining order prohibits not only publication of the bill, but implementation of its provisions as well. The judge’s temporary restraining order stemmed from a lawsuit [JURIST report] filed earlier in March by District Attorney Ismael Ozanne claiming that Republican legislators passed the bill in violation of Wisconsin’s open meetings law. The bill was signed [JURIST report] into law by Walker on March 11.