There was a small victory for public employees on Friday. A federal judge on Friday overturned two provisions of Act 10, the bill which radically rolled back the ability of most public employees to collectively bargain in Wisconsin. Mary Bell heads WEAC, the state’s biggest teachers union. “As we’ve said since last February, Act 10 wasn’t about addressing the fiscal needs of the state, it was about attacking workers and their unions,” Bell said.
AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (:55)
State public employee union executive director Marty Beil called the decision a bittersweet victory. “Our initial intent of the lawsuit was to basically find all of Act 10 and its changes unconstitutional. That did not happen,” said Beil.
Judge William Conley overturned the provision which halted the voluntary withholding of union dues from workers’ paychecks. “It never made any sense to us that a educator could have their health club or their United Way dues deducted from their paycheck,” explained Bell. Conley also ruled that it is unlawful to require local unions to have to file for annual recertification elections. “It was an extreme threshold that no other election requires, not even our presidential elections,” said Bell. “The court said that this was unprecedented and extreme.”
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen released a statement. “If the ruling stands, unions representing non-public safety employees will no longer have to demonstrate member support through annual recertification and will have greater ability to take money out of employees’ paychecks. While this may give the unions more power over their members, it does nothing to benefit the public employees of this state,” he said. He also said the state may appeal the decision.
“The message to our members is that our work is not done. This is only a small step, this does not restore full collective bargaining rights,” said Beil. “We will continue to work for restoration of the workers’ rights to negotiate for fair wages and safe working conditions,” said Bell.