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And Now the Predictable Court Shopping Begins

Yawn.

One day after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the reinstatement of collective-bargaining legislation that potentially affects thousands of public-sector employees, a coalition of unions filed suit in federal court seeking to block it.

The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO on Wednesday joined a number of other unions seeking to halt Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial collective bargaining legislation.

The groups include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 24, AFSCME Council 40, AFSCME Council 48, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), the Wisconsin State Employees Union, The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union – Health Care Wisconsin (SEIU).

In a statement, the groups said they filed the suit because the collective-bargaining legislation “denies hundreds of thousands of public employees their right to collectively bargain for a better life. The groups challenge the constitutionality of the state’s Budget Repair Bill which would destroy collective bargaining rights for all but a select group of public sector workers.”

The suit, filed in the Western District of Wisconsin, says the legislation violates the 1st and 14th amendments “by stripping away basic rights to bargain, organize and associate for the purpose of engaging in union activity, which have been in place for the last half century.”

The case was assigned to Federal Judge William M. Conley. Conley is an appointee of President Barack Obama.

The unions are asking the federal court to prevent the Walker administration from implementing the legislaton, either on a temporary or permanent basis. And they are asking the court to find the legislation unconstitutional.

Oh, where to begin here…

Collective Bargaining is a Right – No. It’s not.

It was granted by an act of the legislature in 1959 and signed into law by then-Governor Gaylord Nelson.  What the legislature giveth, the legislature can taketh away.  (See: Prohibition, Repeals of an number of past laws, and other related area.)

Now, some in Wisconsin might see Gaylord Nelson as some sort of God; when in reality he was a mere mortal.  And the acts of man are not forever.

Equal Protection Under the 14th Amendment — Oh yes, the common, yet tired and pointless legal argument.

Any solid argument against this will go as follows:  Exemption is common practice done by a number of states, even the Federal Government.  Postal employees are unionized, while your federal average office worker is not.  In states like Tennessee (until recently) only teachers had collective bargaining for public employees.  While in Texas, only police and firefighters can unionize.

Then there’s the hurdle of “Taft-Hartley” to overcome.  (H/T James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation)

So, unless they are looking for some sort of “Landmark Decision” which will overturn all states in the union, this is one high mountain for them to climb.

But of course, that’s not the point.  As the crew at Media Tracker points out, this is all straight from the playbook which was exposed in mid-February in a memo obtained by the Wisconsin Club for Growth.

We could file the case in either federal or state court. We think federal court may be preferred. We are concerned that if we file in state court, the case will eventually be appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court which may be biased in favor of the Governor.

[…]

We believe we have strong arguments for challenging the Budget Repair Bill. First, there is the Equal Protection Clause violation because the Bill creates a classification of three preferred unions without a rational relationship to the articulated purpose of addressing the budget shortfall. While the rational basis test is a fairly easy standard to overcome, we believe the Bill will not be able to show a rational basis. Second, there is a First Amendment retaliation claim- that the Bill is motivated by a desire to retaliate against the public employee unions who spoke out against electing Governor Walker. This speech is constitutionally protected.

All of which we are now heard today from the union coalition.

William Conley is a former Madison attorney once employed by Foley & Lardner, the state’s largest “Super Firm.”   He was confirmed 99-0 in early 2010 by the U.S. Senate.

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