Governor Scott Walker is hailing a federal court of appeals ruling as a victory for state tax payers. A three judge panel today upheld "Act 10," the Governor's law that strips public employee unions of most of their collective bargaining rights.
The ruling comes in a case brought by the state teachers' union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council. The union argued, among other things, that the law's ban on allowing the collection of dues through the state payroll system violated union members First Amendment free speech rights. But today's ruling rejected that argument and upheld the law in its entirety. Attorney general J B Van Hollen says the ruling re-enforces the policymaking power of the governor and the legislature.
"Even if courts may not like what policymaking bodies have done, that as long as that has a rational basis, as in this case, they're going to uphold their actions, and so making sure that the legislative body maintains that power, I think, sends a strong strong message with regards to a number of different cases."
But union leaders call the ruling a narrow one and pledge to continue fighting to restore bargaining rights to public employees. The minority leader of the state Assembly, Democrat Peter Barca, points out that the court ruling acknowledges that the law was motivated by the Governor's desire to punish unions and their supporters for opposing his fiscal policies. Seventh Circuit judge Joel Flaum's ruling said, "as unfortunate as it may be, political favoritism is a frequent aspect of legislative action." Barca urged the legislature to avoid passing bills in the future that may be constitutional but are specifially designid to reward political friends and punish political enemies.