A county court judge in Madison, Wisconsin threw out much of Act 10, Wisconsin’s controversial collective bargaining law yesterday. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel explains the ruling:
The law remains largely in force for state workers, but for city, county and school workers the decision by Dane County Judge Juan Colas returns the law to its status before Walker signed the legislation in March 2011.
Colas ruled that the law violated workers’ constitutional rights to free speech, free association and equal representation under the law by capping union workers’ raises but not those of their nonunion counterparts. The judge also ruled that the law violated the “home rule” clause of the state constitution by setting the contribution for City of Milwaukee employees to the city pension system rather than leaving it to the city and workers.
While some liberals may celebrate this as a victory in that state’s manichean struggle between supporters and opponents of the right of public sector workers to unionize, it may prove counterproductive in the long term. The case will eventually be appealed to the state’s Republican leaning Supreme Court, which is likely to return to the status quo. In the meantime, it is likely to only stir up outrage in the Badger State.
Regardless of what one thinks about Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law, voters have already repeatedly weighed on it. The state has seen recall elections for Governor, for about a third of the seats in its state senate as well as a passionately contested race for the State Supreme Court. These have all been portrayed as referendums on Act 10 and the results have given a narrow, but decisive advantage to Walker and his allies.
Voters worn out by nearly two years of back and forth on collective bargaining are not likely to view the judge’s decision kindly. It represents a court usurping the settled will of Wisconsin voters. This is likely to produce a backlash in November. Paul Ryan’s presence on the Republican ticket has already helped the GOP in Wisconsin. Combined with this decision, it could be enough for Romney to pull off an upset in the normally Democratic leaning state on Election Day.