In 5-2 ruling, Supreme Court issues final word on Act 10
|By Ed Treleven, The Wisconsin State Journal</b>|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
In upholding Gov.
In its 5-2 decision, the court said public workers in
"We reject the plaintiffs' argument that several provisions of Act 10, which delineate the rights, obligations and procedures of collective bargaining, somehow infringe upon general employees' constitutional right to freedom of association," Justice
"No matter the limitations or 'burdens' a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation. The First Amendment cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect."
"As thoughtful people from across the political spectrum and around the world have long recognized, collective bargaining benefits workers, employers and society itself," Crooks wrote. "Although Act 10 does not violate either
In a statement, Gov.
"Act 10 has saved
The law prohibits most government employees from bargaining on issues other than base wages up to the rate of inflation, required unions to hold annual recertification votes and prohibits the state and municipalities from deducting union dues from paychecks.
Public safety employees, which include some but not all police unions, kept the rights they had before the law took effect.
Several key provisions of the law were ruled unconstitutional in 2012 by
A federal appeals court in
It was not clear how or when Thursday's ruling might affect thousands of local government employees -- including those in Madison, the
But with the court issuing the final word on the law, it seems certain the unions will eventually lose automatic dues collection, and their influence on pay, benefits and working conditions will wane, despite statements by several politicians saying they will still want input from workers.
Madison officials have been developing a post-Act 10 plan that calls for termination of employee contracts on
"Most of us have assumed unfortunately that this would happen, so we have been preparing for some time," Mayor
Eight city contracts were to expire on
May said the city isn't terminating the pacts immediately as a practical matter, adding it will be easier to make changes at the start of the new city fiscal year
Madison city and schools officials and
Signed pacts valid?
But county board Chair
"My position is that we negotiated the contracts in good faith and they should be valid," she said.
"We believe we were on solid ground to negotiate those contracts and we will continue to follow those agreements," she said in a statement
Last year the county board became the first government entity in the state to approve an employee handbook that would be available, when needed, to replace union contracts while taking away as little as legally possible from employees, Parisi said.
Act 10 will force some changes because it forbids collective bargaining on anything but base wages -- and then only for bargaining units that certify with approval of more than 51 percent of members, not just those casting votes.
The law also ends the arbitration system that was used to settle disputes when management and employees reached an impasse.
But, Parisi said, "There's nothing that stops us from sitting down and hearing what our employees have to say and receiving their input."
Some changes in benefits and working conditions are likely to be included in the city of Madison handbook for eight unions representing about 1,000 employees, said
The union contracts cover city clerical, streets, engineering, library, parks, building trades and other workers.
"We've been working very cooperatively with them," Wirtz said. "It's going very well from my perspective. They are just trying to do the best they can under the circumstances."
Details on benefits and working conditions will be decided ultimately by the
He said administrators hope the council will accept the recommendations and not debate amendments to provisions.
The handbook and ordinances the
Wirtz said some changes in benefits and working conditions are being discussed, including:
--Changes in employee payments for health insurance
--Removal of seniority rights that allowed the most veteran streets workers to chose their jobs; they would still be able to pick the side of the city where they work
--The amount of extra pay received for working certain shifts will be standardized across employee groups
Matthews called Thursday's ruling "absurd," but acknowledged it is the final word on the question of whether the kind of collective bargaining most public employee unions had used until 2011 would continue.
"It's an unlawful collective bargaining agreement," he said, "(it) was utterly predictable that this would happen."
Earlier this summer, the
Esenberg would not say whether he intended to bring suit against the
In a letter to district staff, Superintendent
In her dissent, Bradley wrote that the majority opinion sidestepped the actual issues in the matter and reframed the argument, focusing on whether there is a constitutional right to bargain collectively instead of whether Act 10 infringes on the freedom of association rights of public employees to organize.
She wrote that the unions' argument is "based on the well-established premise that there is a constitutional right to organize as a collective bargaining unit," which the
Instead, Bradley wrote, the majority "pivots to a different issue advanced by the state and then analyzes that issue." By doing so, she wrote, "the majority avoids the actual argument advanced before this court."
Act 10 "discourages organizing as a collective bargaining unit by increasing its cost," Bradley wrote, because it requires annual recertification elections and eliminates the requirement that all members share the cost of providing the union's services.
"By making membership unduly expensive," Bradley wrote, "these Act 10 provisions collectively infringe on the associational right to organize. There is no doubt that these provisions act to discourage membership."
But Gableman, writing for the majority, said it is "undisputed that collective bargaining is not constitutionally protected. Indeed,
The dissent's accusation that the majority dodged the question "is misplaced," Gableman wrote. "Act 10 certainly presents meaningful difficulties for certified representatives, but these difficulties have no bearing on our analysis of the act's constitutionality."
Still, wrote Gableman, "Represented municipal employees, non-represented municipal employees and certified representatives lose no right or ability to associate to engage in constitutionally protected speech."
"Act 10 merely provides general employees with a statutory mechanism to force their employer to collectively bargain; outside of this narrow context, to which plaintiffs freely concede public employees have no constitutional right, every avenue for petitioning the government remains available."
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