Reports on State of Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Decision on Collective Bargaining Rights of Public Workers
The Unions filed lawsuits in the State Courts against Act 10 of the State of Wisconsin. The State of Wisconsin legislature, supported and encouraged by the Governor, passed a legislation that severely curtails the collective bargaining rights of public workers. The legislation – Act 10 -- was passed in 2011. Act 10 specifically limited bargaining rights to pay raises within the rate of inflation.
Since then, there has been big public policy debate and the dispute has manifested itself in terms of lawsuits by the Unions against the Governor and the Act 10.
After adjudication by the lower courts, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reviewed the lawsuit against Act 10. Upon its review, the Supreme Court now – July 31, 2014 -- has held that law was constitutional and did not violate the freedom of association and equal protection rights.
While the decision was not unanimous, it had the support of five justices (two others dissented).
The rationale of the Supreme Court’s holding is thus summarized in the opinion: “No matter the limitations or ‘burdens’ a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation...The First Amendment cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect.”
Of course, the Unions can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court but such an appeal is unlikely to resonate with the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In light of tight budgetary situation, other states may follow the State of Wisconsin’s lead and restrict pay raises for public sector employees to within inflation rate – and take away the bargaining right of the unions on this matter.