Wisconsin anti-union law now in effect

NYHTC — July 12, 2011



The anti-union, anti-worker law that triggered massive demonstrations and focused global attention on Wisconsin went into effect on June 29. A 4-3 decision by the state's highest court cleared the way for its implementation.  

Although the court issued its decision on June 14, Secretary of State Doug LaFollette did not officially publish the bill until June 28. He did so seemingly reluctantly. He was quoted in the Wisconsin State Journal as saying, "I just don't see what the big rush is here,'" as the law "is going to harm and affectœ thousands of people." 

The opinion the court handed down has proved to be as controversial as the maneuverings the Republicans engaged in to get the contentious measure passed. Stories about it have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Local stories can be found in the Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times, both of which also provided detailed on-the-scene coverage of Republican Governor Scott Walker's desperate and devious efforts to get Wisconsin Act 10 enacted.

More commonly known as the Budget Repair Bill, the despotic law robs Wisconsin public employees of basic rights to bargain collectively and imposes a significant wage cut on them. According to the Wall Street Journal, these workers will now have to contribute 5.8 percent of their wages to their pensions and also bear the cost of "at least 12.6 percent of their health care premiums."

As in other states, Wisconsin public employees did not have the legal right to strike. So, the elimination of collective bargaining rights does nothing but deny these workers input in decisions about their working conditions. Since teachers, firefighters, police officers and other rank-and-file public servants are widely recognized to be much more competent, dedicated, courageous, and honest than the greasy-palmed Republican legislators and governor who are attacking them, the new law seems unwise public policy as well as unjust. The real purpose of the law is to suppress organized political opposition to Republican rule over Wisconsin.

The 4-3 decision that enabled the law to squeak into effect has done little to confer any real legitimacy either on it or on the Republican tactics used to ram it through the legislature. The four judges widely perceived as the court's conservatives banded together to produce the decision and issue it in record time. Their action saved the Republican legislators from having to reintroduce the legislation and again confront hundreds of thousands of angry workers, students, retirees, and other constituents.

Meanwhile, the recall efforts provoked by Walker's anti-labor, anti-worker tactics are moving forward. Six Republican senators are the targets of energetic recall campaigns. Angry public backlash against the court's decision and Walker's sweeping budget cuts have injected additional vigor into these efforts. Unseating just three of them would enable Democrats to gain control of the Senate provided that none of the three recall efforts the Republicans are pursuing is successful. 

Richmond, Todd/AP.After heated debate, Wis. union law takes effect. Madison.com. June 28, 2011. 

Bauer, Scott/AP. Walker opponents shift focus to recall elections. Madison.com. June 17, 2011

Barbour, Clay and Spicuzza, Mary. Collective bargaining law to take effect June 29. Wisconsin State Journal. June 15, 2011.

Merrick, Amy. Wisconsin Union Law to Take Effect. Wall Street Journal. June 15, 2011.

Davey, Monica.Wisconsin Court Reinstates Law on Union Rights. New York Times. June 14, 2011.

Photo courtesy of Brett Hoven