October 30, 2014

Federal court upholds Act 10

A federal appeals court has upheld Wisconsin Act 10. “I’ve said all along that I was confident that the reforms we enacted, that empower schools, local governments and state government to put the power back in the hands of the taxpayers, ultimately would be proven to be constitutional,” Governor Scott Walker said during a stop in Oshkosh.

Walker’s office also released a statement on the ruling:

“Today’s court ruling is a victory for Wisconsin taxpayers. The provisions contained in Act 10, which have been upheld in federal court, were vital in balancing Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion budget deficit without increasing taxes, without massive public employee layoffs, and without cuts to programs like Medicaid.” 

The decision by a three judge federal panel upholds the law in its entirety. “We’re very pleased with the ruling for a number of different reasons,” said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. “They’ve held up the constitutionality of Act 10 in its entirety. It’s the highest federal court that has ruled on the federal constitutionality of this law. That’s going to be an authority that’s going to help considerably in the other cases as well.” Last fall, a Dane County judge issued an injunction, barring implementation of Act 10. “Does it stay the injunction that he has issued? No. However it is going to be very strong persuasive authority to the court of appeals in the state, to stay his injunction.”

A federal judge in Madison had largely upheld Act 10 last year, but struck down a provision requiring labor unions to hold annual recertification votes, and a prohibition on withholding union dues from public employee payrolls. One of the judges on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals did argue that the state could not bar some public employee unions from withholding dues, while allowing police and firefighter unions to do so. But Van Hollen said Friday’s decision from the judges in Chicago upholds the law in its entirety.

AUDIO: J.B. Van Hollen (:50)

“There are other aspects of this decision that I think are very important as well,” said Van Hollen. “We’ve been arguing in this and other cases, how important it is to let the legislature and the governor to do their job in making policy, and the courts to their job. This decision was very clear . . . that it’s not their prerogative to decide what’s in the best interest of the people of the state of Wisconsin. It’s their prerogative to decide whether the government of Wisconsin had a rational basis to do this, and that they clearly did.

Unions and elected officials of both political parties issued statements Friday afternoon in response to the decision. State Representative Peter Barca, the Assembly Minority Leader:

“While the Seventh Circuit Court upheld Act 10 on narrow legal grounds, the court did acknowledge that Act 10 appears to be an act of favoritism for ‘friends’ and punishing enemies. While that approach may be legal, the Republican-appointed Judge Joel Flaum notes in the decision that ‘the United States Constitution does not forbid all legislation that rewards friends and punishes opponents.” 

“Given the recent focus on bipartisanship, now would be a good opportunity to move away from positions the court acknowledges are likely favoritism and punishment. We must find real solutions the Wisconsin way of sitting down together and rolling up our sleeves to tackle problems with all stakeholders to repair some of the damage that has been done by this law. We are not a state that should have laws in place to settle partisan vendettas.” 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos:

“Today’s federal court ruling confirms what we’ve known all along: Act 10 is constitutional. What we’ve seen in this case–and with so many others before it–is that a liberal Dane County judge made a political, not a legal, decision.” 

“These reforms have played an important role in balancing budgets at the state and local levels. I encourage those who have not utilized these tools to begin incorporating them to the benefit of taxpayers.” 

Senate Democratic Leader Chris Larson:

“Today’s ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is an immense setback for Wisconsin’s middle class families who are already suffering a lack of job creation. After half a century of labor progress in Wisconsin, upholding this divisive legislation will only hurt Wisconsin’s working, middle class families. The 7th Circuit’s determination that the calculated protection of political favorites and the targeting of political foes is constitutionally permissible is a sad deterioration of our Wisconsin values.” 

United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck:

“We are extremely disappointed by the decision of the 7th Court of Appeals which has upheld Scott Walker’s anti-worker Act 10 legislation. Act 10 was proposed and passed as a blatantly political maneuver to tip the scales in favor of Republican interests.

Today’s decision tarnishes Wisconsin’s proud history as a pioneer of workers’ rights. It is a slap in the face to our public servants and the workers who fought so hard for the right to collectively bargain. Today our state has taken a giant step backward.”

AFSCME Wisconsin:

“AFSCME members are disappointed by this decision. While we review the details and weigh our options with our leaders across the state, we want to make clear that the fight for worker rights continues. Federal courts are just one of the avenues we are using in our fight to give
workers a voice. We will continue using every method and avenue open to us and will not rest until workplace rights are restored for all public service employees.”