[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] on Friday that certain portions of Wiscosin’s Budget Repair Bill [2011 Wisconsin Act 10 text, PDF], which limits the rights of unions to collectively bargain, are unconstitutional. Seven of Wisconsin’s largest public unions challenged the bill on grounds of right to assembly under the First Amendment and Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment [text]. The unions argued that it was unconstitutional to treat public safety employees differently from general employees. The court upheld limitations on what the unions could bargain for, but struck down provisions requiring unions to recertify by an absolute majority annually and prohibiting the voluntary withholding of union dues from a general employee’s paycheck. The court found it unconstitutional that unions which supported Governor Scott Walker [official website] during his election were apparently given preferential treatment:
Absent evidence of viewpoint discrimination, perhaps it is enough that the State of Wisconsin merely chose a dividing line between two classes of unions and applied it evenhandedly, but the court has difficulty with that result where the only apparent reason for discriminating between the entities is their different viewpoints. Indeed, the very reason proffered by the Supreme Court in Ysursa for not interfering in an outright ban on all political payroll deductions for public unions—the State’s interest in avoiding the reality or appearance of favoritism or entanglement with partisan politics—is the very reason this court cannot uphold the State of Wisconsin’s apparent, if not actual, favoritism and entanglement in partisan politics by discriminating in favor of fundraising efforts on behalf of public safety unions over general employee unions.
The court enjoined the relevant provisions of the Budget Repair Bill.
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 [JURIST repor] the Budget Repair Bill in June, 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. Walker signed [JURIST report] the bill into law on March 11.