Dealing unions their latest loss in court, a federal appeals court Friday upheld Gov. Scott Walker’s tight limits on collective bargaining for most public employees.
The ruling by the three-judge panel upheld a September decision by U.S. District Judge William Conley in Madison that the law known as Act 10 does not infringe on the rights of government workers.
“Act 10 does not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. We therefore affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the state,” the ruling reads.
The law stipulates that government employee unions can negotiate over wages but nothing else, and that any pay increases can be no higher than the rate of inflation, except where voters approve them by referendum. The law also dictates that unions cannot be recognized by the state or local governments unless 51% of all potential members — not just those voting — support the union in annual elections.
Two unions representing local employees throughout Dane County sued in July 2011 in federal court in Madison contending the law violates their rights to freedom of association and equal protection under the law.
“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,” Conley wrote in his own decision last year. “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.”
Act 10 is still before the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, with a ruling expected in the next couple of months.