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Intro: "Wisconsin's law taking away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most public workers was struck down Thursday by a circuit court judge but the ruling will not be the final say in the union fight that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol earlier this year."

Casting long shadows, the labor protesters of Wisconsin persist, 02/28/11. (photo: Getty Images)
Casting long shadows, the labor protesters of Wisconsin persist, 02/28/11. (photo: Getty Images)

Judge Voids Wisconsin Anti-Union Bill

By Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond, Associated Press

26 May 11

RSN Special Coverage: GOP's War on American Labor


isconsin's law taking away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most public workers was struck down Thursday by a circuit court judge but the ruling will not be the final say in the union fight that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol earlier this year.

The state Supreme Court has scheduled arguments for June 6 to decide whether it will take the case. Republicans who control the Legislature also could pass the law a second time to avoid the open meeting violations that led to the judge's voiding the law Thursday.

Gov. Scott Walker pushed for the law as a way to help balance the state budget that was projected to be $3.6 billion short when he introduced the proposal in February. His spokesman, Cullen Werwie, said the governor would have no comment on the ruling.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and his brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, said in statements they believe the Supreme Court will rule in their favor.

"This overdue reform is still a critical part of balancing Wisconsin's budget," Scott Fitzgerald said.

Wisconsin Department of Justice executive assistant Steve Means said the ruling was disappointing and that he was confident the Supreme Court would overturn the decision. The Justice Department argued that the lower court judge had no authority to block enactment of a bill passed by the Legislature.

Ismael Ozanne, the Dane County district attorney who argued for striking down the law, did not immediately return a message.

While Walker and Republican legislators have said they legally passed the bill, they say they would pass it again if necessary to have it take effect when Walker's two-year budget begins July 1.

Still, the judge's ruling is a victory, said Marty Beil, executive director of the state's largest public employee union.

"It tells legislators 'You can't be arrogant,'" Beil said. "You have to do it in the light of day. You can't take stuff away from people in a backroom deal."

If the Legislature legally passes the bill, Beil said more legal challenges attacking its constitutionality will be filed.

Mary Bell, president of the state's largest teachers' union, said she hoped the judge's ruling would lead to lawmakers reconsidering passing the law again.

"It is not in the best interest of students, schools or Wisconsin's future to take the voices of educators out of our classrooms," Bell said in a statement. "We've seen how this issue has polarized our state."

The last time the Legislature took up the issue, tens of thousands of protesters including many teachers descended on Madison in a vain attempt to persuade lawmakers to reject Walker's proposal. The protests, which grew to as large as 85,000 people, lasted for weeks and made Wisconsin the center of a national debate on union rights. Meanwhile, all 14 Democratic senators fled to Illinois to prevent a 20-member quorum to pass the bill. The Senate then called a special committee meeting with roughly two hours' notice so it could amend the bill to take out spending items that required a higher quorum to be present.

Once amended, the Senate passed the bill without the Democrats present and the Assembly followed suit the next day. The Assembly had previously passed the more expansive version of the bill following a 61-hour filibuster by Democrats. Walker signed the stripped-down version into law on March 11.

On Thursday, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled that Republican legislators violated Wisconsin's open meetings law by calling the meeting at such short notice.

She noted the open meetings law typically calls for 24-hours' notice or, in cases with just cause, two hours. Sumi said nothing justified less than 24 hours for the special committee and declared the law void. She had already put the law on hold while she considered the case.

"Our form of government depends on citizens' trust and confidence in the process by which our elected officials make laws, at all levels of government," she wrote in the 33-page decision.

A day earlier, the Justice Department sent Sumi a letter urging her to consider recusing because she appears biased against the Republicans. The agency pointed to a brief she filed with the Supreme Court outlining her belief and that she has the authority to void a law if the open meetings law was violated during its passage, saying she shouldn't have set out her position before she issued a decision.

A message left at Sumi's chambers Thursday wasn't immediately returned.

The collective bargaining law called for public workers at all levels, from janitors at the state Capitol to local librarians, to contribute more to their pension and health care costs, resulting in savings to the state of $300 million through mid-2103. The law also strips them of their right to collectively bargain any work conditions except wages. Police and firefighters are exempt.

Walker was counting on the savings to help blunt the impact of more than $1 billion in aid cuts to schools and local governments he's calling for in his budget which could be ready to be debated in the Senate and Assembly in mid-June.

Republicans passed it without them present, using a hastily called meeting to put the bill in the form needed to do that. The calling of that meeting with less than two hours' notice is what led to the lawsuit.

Associated Press writer Jason Smathers contributed to this report. your social media marketing partner


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+60 # boudreaux 2011-05-26 12:31
This is another sign of what WE THE PEOPLE CAN AND WILL DO IF NEED BE.....VICTORY. ...
+4 # LeeBlack 2011-05-26 13:15
But we don't know what will happen with the Supreme Court.
+10 # GeeRob 2011-05-26 21:42
And we don't know how many Supremes are owned by the Koch brothers.
+48 # mike/ 2011-05-26 12:54
the wingers in WI consider Judge Sumi to be one of those 'activist' judges; except they forget to mention that she was appointed by a Republican to the court!

i thought 'activist' justices were all liberal democrats, socialists or communists?
+23 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2011-05-26 13:21
In addition, the article quotes Republicans as saying: "...she appears biased against the Republicans." Yeah, she stated she would UPHOLD THE LAW; that IS biased against the Republicans.
+1 # AndreM5 2011-05-26 13:40
No, they are the majority on the US Supreme Court.
+11 # conniejo 2011-05-26 13:48
Unfortunately, this victory is likely to be short-lived, which does not detract from it as a victory for "people power." The irony of the Fitzgerald brothers' labeling of Judge Sumi as a biased, activist judge will be apparent when the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturns the ruling. The court has all "independent" judges (the majority of whom tend to side with the Republicans), including the infamous David Prosser who it appears may have been re-elected in a questionable April election. Prosser, who indicated before the election that he was looking forward to supporting Scott Walker's agenda (how's that for neutrality?), will do just that unless one of the other conservatives breaks with tradition and rules in support of the open meeting law really meaning what it says. But don't count on it. However this comes out, the fight is far from over. We have the power if we unite to use it.
+15 # Archie1954 2011-05-26 13:20
I watched the short video of the passing of the Bill and how contemptuous and arrogant the Republican chairman was especially when a Democratic legislator warned him that he wasn't following the law. The chairman couldn't care less and went merrily on his way having shown disdain for the law. Thank goodness a judge was not so ethically challenged.
+15 # giraffee2012 2011-05-26 13:51
As long as the GOP-TParty keep hammering away at decocracy -- the "progressives" won't have to do much to win back seats in the government.

You GO --WISCONSIN -- Of all the Koch supported governors who tricked their way into office Wisconsin's Walk(all over democracy)er is almost laughable with his obvious stream of measures to make the Koch Brothers his KING. Wisconsin people have set the example -- to fight for our liberty and the pursuit of happiness (I think that is a quote )) and an inspiration -- showing "WE STILL HAVE THE POWER OF THE VOTE.

Vote in 2012 --- PLEASE -- and we do not want another 4+ years of "W" or a "Walker"

The next step is to require the Supremes to REPEAL their 2010 UNCONSTITUTIONA L decison to give corporations First Amendment rights -- which has led to the "best govt money can buy" -- Scalia/Thomas were wined/dined by the Koch brothers b4 that Decision. No Supreme 'SHALL' make a Decision based on $$ or politics ---

Congress has the POWER to impeach a justice for such acts.

VOTE -- it's your right! And your duty.
And that is my opinion. I'm voting for President Obama -- bc I do not want the middle class to disappear while the wealthy get richer on our dime.
+12 # geraldom 2011-05-26 14:29
One has to wonder as to why Gov Walker & his co-partners in crime in the Wisconsin state legislator don't seem to be too afraid about what the effect will be on their political careers if they pass this law a 2nd time.

Why don't they seem very afraid of being voted out of office in recall elections? That's what concerns me more than anything else. Is it that they already have lucrative jobs promised them as rewards in the corp community, perhaps with the Koch brothers, if they do eventually pass this Bill & lose their jobs?

Or, are they so confident that they have full & unfettered control over the electoral process within the state of Wisconsin, especially with the use of these fraudulent & corrupt & unverifiable e-voting machines along with new laws that they are passing requiring some hard-to-get voter ID for use at the polling places, & perhaps a plan to challenge Dem voters, harassment them, at the various polling places, especially within Dem voting districts.

Is it perhaps that they plan on doing what was done in Ohio in the 2004 pres election where the Dem voting districts weren't given enough voting machines, & the ones that they were given were found to be faulty & defective?

And, let's not forget the Wisconsin state Supreme Court controlled by Repub judges. The people of Wisconsin truly have an uphill battle.
+6 # mtnview 2011-05-26 15:19
+10 # Saberoff 2011-05-26 15:20
Thank you Judge Sumi. You are a Hero! in Our Great State of Wisconsin (you make it greater).
Walker goes: early 12!
+12 # MJnevetS 2011-05-26 15:27
Silly Wabbit, don't you know that activist judges are any judges who don't do what the most extreme sect of the Republican Party tells them to do. An activist judge is any judge who would judge a case neutrally based upon what statutory law requires, on what morality requires, or heaven forbid, what THE CONSTITUTION requires! In case anyone has been asleep for 20-30 years, the Republican party mouthpieces (starting with Fox News) no longer even attempt to make logical or cogent arguments as to why their position is correct. The immediate fall-back position is an ad hominem attack on the messenger. (i.e., the judge stated that the procedure was illegal, instead of setting forth reasons why the conduct of the state legislature was appropriate, they call the judge making the ruling an 'activist' (which is fascist speak for liberal), even though the judge is a Republican) The reason for the ad hominem attack, is that there is no logical intelligent response; no valid excuse for the procedural violations, thus, the judge is an 'activist'.
+6 # heraldmage 2011-05-26 15:47
We have only won a small battle, not the war so let's not celebrate just yet.
The GOP has been anti-union since its inception. Thanks to lies & loud mouth Tea Party the people elected them. Now we have found out what the GOP stands for. It's certainly not what's in the best interest of the people, but what their corporate sponsors need to increase their profits.
Time to take money out of government. We must elect independent candidates who promise, in writing, to pass legislation publicly funding election campaigns with absolutely no private money allowed. Then bring back the truth through reinstatement of Fairness Doctrine & requiring news & current events be broadcast as a public service. To avoid confusions discussion programs must continuously display a label " commentary, opinion, not based on fact"
Hopefully the people have learned the GOP can't be trusted & will work to prevent liars with agendas meant to limit or eliminate our constitutional rights from getting elected again. It also showed the need for recall legislation & the short comings in existing laws.
We have 1 victory now it's time to get ready for the next battle. The ruling parties aren't going to give up their power & wealth without a fight.
+11 # myrnah 2011-05-26 15:50
Hurray! Now we need to kick butt with those recall elections. The Repubs are learning a lesson about pushing old people around with the backlash against the Ryan plan to destroy Medicare. Now they need to feel some consequences for attacking labor unions.
+5 # VSweet 2011-05-26 16:51
Whoo! Whoo! Thanks be to God for prayers answered for this miraculous break through!!
No, the fight is not over, but I believe Victory is coming for the oppressed and the poor and laboreres.
Keep up the FAITH and FIGHT the Good Fight Wisconsinites!!
+9 # Scott479 2011-05-26 17:24
The AP said: "the ruling will not be the final say in the union fight that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol"

This is an example of the finely subtle yet ultimately brutish power of language-the protesters were numbered in multiples of 100's of thousands over the course of their work. Saying tens of thousands was no mistake.....
-7 # Jeff11788 2011-05-26 18:14
Illegal anti-labor laws, yet another violation of our rights. Add it to the list of gov’t violations of our rights:
They violate the 1st Amendment by placing protesters in cages, banning books like “America Deceived II” and censoring the internet.
They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns.
They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by molesting airline passengers.
They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars for foreign countries.
Impeach Obama, vote for Ron Paul.
(Last link of Banned Book):
+2 # RNF123 2011-05-28 18:36
You may as well speak your mind, you have nothing to lose. This comment indicates the clear weaknesses of our educational system. We have an entire mass of so-called Constitutional Law experts, who may read the Constitution but are not educated in the rulings of the Court that interpret this great document. Most of what they learn comes from Fox News rather than legal treatises.
0 # apeman2501 2011-05-26 18:26
This judge is throwing up a smoke screen to allow the entities attacking America to elude analysis.
+6 # tomo 2011-05-26 19:25
This time round, the voiding of the law was, I guess you could say, on a technicality. So the reverse by the judge may get "mended" through further acts by the Wisconsin legislature; also, higher courts may be favorable to the miserable spirit of this law.

I may be wrong, but I think the real obstacle to this law is simply the First Amendment to the Constitution. I would think that implicit in the recognition of the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances and implicit in the right of peaceable assembly would be the right of collective bargaining. I don't mean they are exactly the same thing; but a theory of natural rights that sees a God-given right to do the one should recognize as a corollary a right to get together and set the terms under which laborers are willing to work.
+7 # JimYoung 2011-05-26 23:34
I remember the unseemly 17 second (00:57 to 1:14 on the video) surprise vote at 1:05 am in the video Watch the two jokers in front of the speaker who jumped up and were at the dais as he finished the rushed statement ending with "the clerk will open the roll." It ended 17 seconds later at 1:14 into the video (about 1:05 am). It may have taken them only 17 seconds to do their dirty work but I'll remember it every time I get a chance to vote against those who pull such nonsense.

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