Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Upholds Gov. Walker’s Anti-Union Bill
Jun 15, 2011
By Roger Bybee
And spares Republicans the discomfort of having to vote on infamous legislation again
Late Tuesday, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court—with its conservative majority retained by the controversial razor-thin victory of rightist Justice David Prosser on April 5—reaffirmed Gov. Scott Walker's bill stripping almost all public-union workers of their labor rights by a 4-3 majority. Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi had issued a permanent injunction against the anti-union representation bill asserting that Republican legislators violated the state's Open Meeting law requiring 24 hours advance notice of meetings.
The ruling came down at the same time that Republicans were larding the state's biennial 2012-13 budget with concessions to right-wing groups on social issues, new tax breaks for corporations and pro-privatization measures. With the Republicans holding big majorities in both houses, the extraordinarily reactionary budget bill is likely to be enacted by week's end. The Republicans are zooming ahead with their agenda with the cloud of August 9 recall elections hanging over the heads of the six GOP Senators this summer—and Gov. Walker facing his own potential recall after next January.
But because of the Supreme Court's new ruling, Republicans will be spared from having to take another vote on a bill that has made many in the party increasingly uncomfortable. The strength of the pro-recall forces has thrown a scare into a number of Republicans.
In their ruling, the NY Times reported, the majority found that the Legislature "had not violated the state’s Constitution when it relied on its “interpretation of its own rules of proceeding” and gave slightly less than two hours’ notice before meeting and voting. "
The ruling appeared to allow the Legislature's majority to interpret clearly-written state laws to suit its own convenience. The key vote, as long expected, was cast by Justice Prosser, and drew "scathing" criticism from Wisconsin's chief justice, the Times noted:
Justice David T. Prosser, whose re-election bid was threatened this year because he was seen as a conservative who would cast the deciding vote on the collective bargaining measure if it came before the court, voted to overturn the lower court ruling. He issued his own opinion concurring with the majority….
“It is long on rhetoric and long on story-telling that appears to have a partisan slant,” Chief Justice [Shirley] Abrahamson wrote of Justice Prosser’s opinion, later adding, “This kind of order seems to open the court unnecessarily to the charge that the majority has reached a pre-determined conclusion not based on the facts and the law, which undermines the majority’s ultimate decision.”
In another development, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported earlier this month for the first time that Gov. Scott Walker initially sought a complete ban on public unions in Wisconsin. In a lengthy background piece on the battle between Gov. Walker and labor and its allies, the Journal Sentinelreported that fellow Republicans challenged Walker on seeking the abolition of public-sector unions when it would have no financial impact:
"If you can't identify fiscal savings from a collective bargaining item, why not leave it alone?" Republican Senate President Mike Ellis asked of Walker.