Late last week Judge Juan Colas struck down major portions of Act 10, the law that severely curtailed how public employees can collectively bargain. Judge Colas argues that the implementation of the law violates the constitutional rights of state employees, specifically the rights of free speech, association and equal representation under the law. Colas views Act 10 as illegally denying public employees the rights afforded to workers who earn their wage in the private sector.
Judge Colas was correct in his ruling against Act 10. Although I doubt that his ruling will survive litigation, especially given the conservative leaning State Supreme Court, I sincerely hope that his ruling will allow Act 10 to be re-structured. Walker’s actions against public unions were unwarranted. Walker’s efforts to bring the state budget were necessary; however, the way that he shredded what many, including myself, view as a worker’s basic rights was an unnecessary partisan attack against the unions. Judge Colas’ decision gives Act 10 a chance to undergo a facelift. The law can simultaneously help control Wisconsin’s budget without pulling out the carpet from under collective bargaining.
The debate surrounding Act 10 will certainly continue into the future in Wisconsin, and as other states pass similar legislation the debate will only spread. Judge Juan Colas’ decision will hopefully set a good example of how the court system can restructure a broken law. However, Judge Colas should heed Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s request to stay his ruling until the appellate process is complete. By placing a hold on his ruling, Judge Colas would allow Act 10 to continue functioning as before. Ultimately, the appeals process will not be affected on whether Act 10 is currently in place or not. The only incentive I can see to shuttering the law until the appeals process is done is that it will encourage the appellate courts to speed up their judgements.
The upside to staying the repeal of Act 10 is that school’s front offices won’t be in a perpetual state of confusion until the law is either wholly repealed or substantially changed. The Madison Teachers’ Union has already attempted to resume contract negotiations. Until Judge Colas’ decision is dealt with, these negotiations will only be a waste of time and money.
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