In early 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker privately described his plan to crush public-employee rights as a move to “drop the bomb” on public workers, as part of a “divide-and-conquer” strategy to play off private-sector workers’ resentment against them.
Gov. Walker’s Act 10 indeed had explosive reverberations: it triggered a six week siege of the State Capitol in Madison by crowds of at least 100,000. Even the debate among State Supreme Court justices was so bitter that Walker ally Justice David Prosser was accused by several witnesses of choking fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley before the court voted 4-3 to uphold Republican legislators’ brass-knuckled procedures to ram through the law.
However, on late Friday Sept. 14, Dane County Judge Juan Colas delivered a new blow to Walker, released a decision ruling key parts of Act 10 as violating both state and federal constitutional provisions on free speech , association, and equal protection. Colas ruled that Act 10 deprived union members of rights accorded non-union employees. Colas’ ruling affects provisions of Act 10 applying to municipal and educational employees but leaves standing provisions covering state employees, explained Lester Pines, attorney for public employee unions.
Earlier this year, a federal judge had tossed out provisions of Act 10 clearly designed to make maintenance of union membership as burdensome as possible.
But Daily Kos cautioned labor and progressives against excessive celebration of the Colas decision, noting the limited nature of the ruling and Gov. Walker’s tenacious determination to end the state’s 70-year tradition of public-employee rights by any means necessary.
Claiming a mandate for Act 10’s extreme limits on public-employee rights based on his June 5 victory in a recall election— where he relied upon a huge funding advantage of at about 7-1, with 65% of the campaign cash coming from out of state—Walker smugly expressed confidence that the Colas ruling would be tossed out:
“Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.”