Federal Judge: Public Sector Union Collective Bargaining Is Not a Right

MADISON – Wisconsin’s public sector unions and their allies are hailing a recent court decision on Act 10 as a victory heading into the summer recall season.

But the most important part of the new law - that collective bargaining is not a legal right -survived the judicial review. That has to be considered a big win for the Walker administration and Wisconsin taxpayers.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled last Friday that union dues could be automatically deducted from public employee paychecks and that the state’s public-sector unions do not need a majority of union members to re-certify as a collective bargaining unit, according to the Associated Press.

Conley ruled that automatic dues deductions must be reinstated by May 31, which will no doubt result in a financial windfall for the Wisconsin Education Association Council and other unions that have suffered from a significant decline in revenue since Act 10 took effect. Many public employees apparently would rather do without the Big Labor’s services, and have refused to voluntarily send in their dues.

But the key components of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget reform legislation remain in place, and were upheld by the court as a constitutional check on union influence in the Badger State.

“Fed court ruling big win for taxpayers. Says collective bargaining is not a right. Upholds that part of law,” Walker tweeted shortly after the ruling.

The decision means that public school districts across the state will continue to reap enormous savings through Act 10 by imposing modest employee contributions for pension and health care costs and eliminating unnecessary union expenses. So far, districts that immediately implemented Act 10’s provisions have saved more than $162 million, and that number will continue to climb as districts with pre-Act 10 contracts are able to tap into the savings once the documents expire.

As we’ve documented in our recent report, “ The Bad Old Days of Collective Bargaining: Why Act 10 Was Necessary for Wisconsin Public Schools,” union bosses rarely cooperated to help struggling school districts before Walker took office.

The court’s decision to uphold the key elements of Act 10 – restrictions on collective bargaining privileges that transferred budgetary control from union bosses to local elected leaders – is the latest in a series of positive trends for the governor and education reformers.

A Marquette University Law School poll released last week shows that the majority of Wisconsin residents believe the state will be better off with Walker’s reforms in place. The same poll showed that while former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has won the majority of union endorsements to challenge Scott Walker, Democratic primary opponent Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett holds a significant lead with potential voters.

Those results come on the heels of other recent surveys that have been good for Walker and bad for Big Labor. In recent months, the Manpower Group released an economic outlook for Wisconsin that showed the state’s economy turning around, with more companies expecting to hire this year than those that plan to reduce their payrolls.

Another separate survey conducted by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s chamber of commerce, says a majority of CEOs expect moderate to good growth in business in the coming year, and 94 percent believe Wisconsin is heading in the right direction.

We believe that all of the above shows Wisconsin residents are interested in a lot more than Big Labor’s self-serving effort to regain control over the state’s finances and politics. Unlike Ohio, where legislation similar to Act 10 was repealed before voters had an opportunity to reap the rewards, Wisconsinites have seen Walker’s reforms in action.

They realize that they’re working.


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