On Friday, September 14, the long running saga surrounding Acts 10 and 32 took another turn as a Dane County Circuit Court judge ruled that many provisions of the acts are unconstitutional and, therefore, “null and void.”
Acts 10 and 32 treat represented and non-represented employees differently in many respects. For example, wage increases for many represented employees are limited to the Consumer Price Index, while wage increases for many non-represented employees are not.
While the court did not hold that there is a constitutional right to collectively bargain, the court did take issue with how the legislation treats represented and non-represented employees differently.
Specifically, the court held that the state could not “single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership,” because such an act would “infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions.” Similarly, the court held that the disparate treatment given represented and non-represented employees violated the constitution’s equal protection clause.
As a result, the court struck down the provisions:
- Prohibiting municipal employers from collectively bargaining with general employee unions on anything but wages.
- Requiring a referendum for wage increases above the cost of living for represented municipal and school district employees.
- Barring fair share dues agreements for general employee unions.
- Prohibiting payroll deduction of dues for general employee unions.
- Imposing certification and recertification election requirements on general municipal employees.
The certification and dues collection provisions were previously struck down in April by a federal judge. The most significant aspect of this most recent decision, therefore, is that the judge struck down the provision which limited collective bargaining rights for most public employees to the issue of wages.
This big issue, of course, is where do we go from here? The case will undoubtedly be appealed, so this decision won’t be the last word. The state has also announced that it will attempt to have the decision stayed while it is being appealed. A decision on the stay issue should be forthcoming shortly.
In the meantime, we recommended that municipalities continue to collect pension and health insurance contributions from their employees as they are currently doing. The court decision did not strike down the state law provisions requiring employee contributions to these programs.
As for all other questions, we recommend municipalities consult with their labor attorney. If you would like additional information regarding Acts 10 and 32 and the status of the litigation over these Acts, please contact Drew Cochrane or your Stafford Rosenbaum attorney.