Wisconsin Anti-Union Law Upheld and Why It Doesn’t Matter

A panel of federal judges upheld key parts of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial Act 10, a state law that largely undoes collective bargaining rights for public sector union members. But here’s the news. The decision is not that big of a deal.

In a 2-1 decision the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said the law’s ban on automatic dues withdraws and mandate that unions re-certify every year did not violate First Amendment freedom of association protections. The unions may decide to ask the full Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to review the panel’s decision or they could skip that step and appeal the decision directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, though it’s unlikely the Roberts Court would agree to hear the matter without the entire Seventh Circuit weighing in first.

The decision would appear to be a significant loss for union supporters, but it’s not as bad as it seems. Two other lawsuits challenging the legality of Act 10 are still pending, including one last fall that struck down those same parts of the law. That case is now under review before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and is not affected by the federal ruling.

Also, while the judges upheld the constitutionality of the donation bans and re-certification requirement, the opinion is hardly a warm embrace of Walker’s motives, tactics or the law itself. “The United States Constitution does not forbid all legislation that rewards friends and punishes opponents. The principal provisions of Wisconsin’s Act 10 may fit that description, but they are still constitutional under the generous standard of rational-basis review” the court wrote. In support of its conclusion that Walker’s legislative cornerstone amounts to base partisanship The court quoted comments by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), who said just before the law passed, “If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a . . . much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.” Said the court in response: “While Senator Fitzgerald’s statement may not reflect the highest of intentions, his sentiments do not invalidate an otherwise constitutional, viewpoint-neutral law.”

Naturally, Wisconsin Republicans were quick to applaud the decision, calling it a significant victory and totally ignoring the fact that the law remains largely blocked and the claims that Act 10 violate the Wisconsin state constitution have always been seen as the stronger challenges. Not that we could expect Walker and his crew to actually deal in facts.

Of course, the status of the legal challenges to his signature union-busting legislation may be the last thing on Walker’s mind and he faces ongoing scrutiny for federal corruption charges. There’s a real chance Walker could see a federal indictment soon, a fact that can’t be lost on Republican leadership as it tries to figure out whether to embrace or repel Walker for the 2014 election.

No matter what happens in the legal challenges we can all look at Wisconsin as the place where the shallowness of the modern-day conservative movement finally found a face — any maybe its first felon.


Related Stories:

Judge Again Blocks Wisconsin Union Bill

Wisconsin Union Law Back and Recalls Heat Up

Scott Walker Pledged To Divide and Conquer Unions [Video]


Photo from Sue Peacock via flickr.


Don H.
Don H.3 years ago

Sarah H, you are a misinformation machine. Have you ever said anything accurate?

Susan Allen
SusanAWAY Allen3 years ago

Sarah H., you could not be more wrong. Did you bother to read any of the previous comments which would explain to you how and why you are so wrong. It boggles the mind how someone can just spew complete nonsense as if it's true.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

Unions are killing jobs, just look at Hostess. They continue to demand more and more making the companies cut more and more jobs. The public sector unions are bankrupting our government for the same reason. Teachers unions have destroyed our education system by not allowing administrations to fire poor performing teachers, so our kids are suffering for it.

Don H.
Don H.3 years ago

James K, thanks for your continued efforts on behalf of the nation.

People cannot remember what it was like before organized labor, they were not yet born. They are fools to believe a thing they hear from a rightie source.

Susan Allen
SusanAWAY Allen3 years ago

You cannot currently send a star to James K. because you have done so within the last week. Great comment.

Charlene R., green star coming your way. Loved the comment.

James Kelly
Mike Kelly3 years ago

(Continued from Below)

Margaret P., Did Scott Walker tell you about his plan to sell profitable power plants that are owned by the State of Wisconsin? His plan does not include a bidding process for the power plants. No, Scott Walker will decide who will buy the power plants, and Scott Walker will decide what the price of the power plant will be.

Margaret P, have you ever heard the tape of Scott Walker fawning over the person he thinks is David Koch on the phone? Margaret P, did you know that the Koch brothers are in the power plant business and major contributors to the Scott Walker campaigns?

James Kelly
Mike Kelly3 years ago

Margaret P. "No one should be forced to belong to any organization if they do not want to and no one should have to see their hard earned money spent other than how they would like."

Wow, Margaret, have I got some great news for you! It will probably make your day if you live in the United States of America. You see, Margaret, in the United States of America it has been ILLEGAL to force someone to join a Union since June 23, 1947. Forced Union membership is called "Closed Shop," and unless you're talking historically about the workplace before 1947, you really should let go of the fear that someone's talking point is causing.

Scott Walker knows about the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 which specifically prohibits Closed Shops. I wonder why he didn't tell you?

I wonder why the person that told you Scott Walker wanted to protect workers from Unions didn't tell you about Taft Hartley?

Could it be , Margaret P. that someone made up the part that they told you about workers forced to join Unions and pay dues?

A non-Union worker in a Union shop is required to pay his or her fair share of wage negotiations and grievances etc, not dues.

Scot Walker wants to bust Unions because Unions are many members that speak with one, big voice against Scot Walker's policy of transferring the wealth of Wisconsin from the middle class and working poor to his billionaire puppet masters like David and Charles Koch.

Margaret P., Did Scott Walker tell you about his plan to sell prof

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush3 years ago

For the younger generations, their ignorance is excused.
For the older generations, it is not.

All salaries are based on the lowest salary, for which anyone will work. It goes up, from there. This is where 'trickle-UP' works.
Anyone laboring under the delusion that Big Business will give _anyone_ hugh salaries, out of the kindness of their itty, bitty hearts is at the edge on lunacy.

Yes, unions have taken advantage, but, rational thinking persons realize that Big Business take 'rake you over the coals', without a counter-balance. It's too bad, that we must constantly re-learn this lesson.

Susan Allen
SusanAWAY Allen3 years ago

Margaret P. writes, "...the idea that a portion of the dues they paid are taken by the union for political donations that may not be where they want the money to be spent. " I'm pretty much 100% sure that your statement is incorrect. Unions are not allowed to use union dues for political donations. Unions do donate money, but it is given with voluntary donations made by union members specifically for the purpose that the money be used for political action. It's a shame that there are so many misunderstandings about labor unions. The things that people should be know about unions, they seem to have total ignorance. It's as though workers don't realize practically all the rights they have they owe to labor unions and to the people who stood up, fought and sometimes died for. There are few employers that treat their employees fairly and with a modicum of respect if they are not made to do so. There's always an exception to every rule, but in this case, not so much. To me, the most shocking thing about today's workers are that they don't even think they deserve a living wage, much less benefits of any kind. How did that happen anyway? I guess if you're treated like worthless garbage, you begin to believe it. Workers, WAKE UP! UNITE and stand together for each other. You can win if you have respect for yourself, for each other and for the work that you do.

Margaret Paddock
Margaret Paddock3 years ago

This is not about wages as much as it is the right of every worker to be forced to join a union in order to be employed and the idea that a portion of the dues they paid are taken by the union for political donations that may not be where they want the money to be spent.

No one should be forced to belong to any organization if they do not want to and no one should have to see their hard earned money spent other than how they would like.