2011 Wisconsin Act 10 (“Act 10”), which was signed into law by Governor Walker in March 2011, dramatically restricted the collective bargaining rights of municipal bargaining unit employees, except police and fire employees, and required those employees to pay portions of their retirement and health insurance benefits.
On Friday, September 14, 2012, in a suit brought by Madison teachers and a union representing Milwaukee workers, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas held major portions of the law unconstitutional. Judge Colas found that Act 10 violates the school and local employees’ rights to free speech, free association, and equal representation because it, among other things, caps union workers' raises but not those of nonunion employees and because it treats police and fire employees differently than other public workers.
The situation in Wisconsin is still quite fluid. While local public sector union leaders have pledged that they will immediately seek to bargain on a host of issues made off-limits to collective bargaining by Act 10, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has sought a stay of the ruling pending his appeal. To further complicate matters, two challenges to the law are still pending in federal court. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on September 24th in connection with appeal of a federal judge’s March ruling which struck down portions of the law. Another federal case brought on very similar grounds to the case heard by Judge Colas, has not yet been decided.