WASHINGTON -- Just over a year after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed a measure taking away most collective bargaining rights for public workers, labor unions scored a victory as a federal court struck down portions of the law. The court ruled that the state cannot prevent public sector unions from automatically deducting dues from workers' paychecks and cannot require them to be recertified annually.
The law, known as Act 10, requires most public sector unions to hold annual votes on whether a majority of its members want to recertify the union. It also took away the rights of some unions to automatically collect dues from members' paychecks.
The court kept most of the law in place, but it ruled that the state did not have the power to pick and choose which unions could deduct dues. Under Act 10, only "public safety unions" -- those representing firefighters and police officers -- could continue to take out payments automatically.
"So long as the State of Wisconsin continues to afford ordinary certification and dues deductions to mandatory public safety unions with sweeping bargaining rights, there is no rational basis to deny those rights to voluntary general unions with severely restricted bargaining rights," the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin concluded.
The decision added that the state of Wisconsin had "apparent, if not actual, favoritism and entanglement in partisan politics by discriminating in favor of fundraising efforts on behalf of public safety unions over general employee unions."
U.S. District Judge William Conley rejected the argument that Act 10 violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, but he ordered the state to "return to automatic dues deductions for all members of public unions no later than May 31, 2012."
The case was brought last summer by a group of unions, including the Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO and SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin.
"While we're pleased that Scott Walker's transparent attempts to destroy his political opponents have been ruled illegal under the First Amendment, this ruling only raises the stakes for the upcoming recall elections," said Kelly Steele, spokesman for the labor coalition We Are Wisconsin. "The reality remains Walker lied his way into office by concealing plans to wipe out 50 years of collective bargaining, and the fight continues until workers rights' to negotiate for fair wages and safe working conditions are fully restored."
Walker's office did not return a request for comment.
(Read the full opinion here.)
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