Wisconsin Law Reining in Government Unions Upheld Again

By:  Alex Newman
Wisconsin Law Reining in Government Unions Upheld Again

A popular Wisconsin law aimed at reining in the stranglehold of government-employee unions over taxpayers and workers was upheld Wednesday by a federal judge, who ruled that the 2011 “Act 10” reform measures championed by Republican Governor Scott Walker did not violate the First Amendment or equal-protection rights of Big Labor.

It was the second major victory for the law in federal courts so far. However, with union bosses terrified of losing the battle thanks in large part to the national repercussions it could have, efforts to kill the measure are far from over.

In his September 11 ruling, U.S. District Judge William Conley explained that the First Amendment does indeed protect the right to free speech and association of government workers. Those rights, however, were not violated by the law, and the Constitution does not purport to grant any so-called collective bargaining privileges. “Whatever rights public employees have to associate and petition their public employers on wages and conditions of employment, this right certainly does not compel the employer to listen,” he wrote in his decision to reject the lawsuit filed by two public-sector unions.

Furthermore, the law does not violate the rights of government employees or Big Labor, Judge Conley pointed out. “This difference is likely of no comfort to plaintiffs, but the First Amendment does not require an affirmative response from governmental entities; it simply requires the absence of a negative restriction,” he said in the ruling. “Under Act 10, general employees remain free to associate and represent employees and their unions remain free to speak; municipal employers are simply not allowed to listen.” Fourteenth Amendment arguments were also dismissed.

The law in question, passed in early 2011 shortly after Governor Walker took office, sparked a wave of outrage among Big Labor bosses and advocates of Big Government worldwide. Unions across America joined Big Labor-funded Democrats in the effort to stop the legislation, eventually culminating in large, unruly protests in the capital city of Madison. Democrat state Senators even fled Wisconsin to prevent a vote, but ultimately the bill became law over their vehement objections, saving taxpayers huge sums.

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Photo of 2011 union protest in Wisconsin

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