AFT Affiliates Join Lawsuit Against Wisconsin Law

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AFT affiliates in Wisconsin are among the unions that have filed a federal lawsuit charging that the Wisconsin "budget repair" bill—which the Wisconsin Supreme Court on June 14 decided could be implemented—is unconstitutional.

The 4-3 decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned a Dane County Circuit Court's ruling that the Legislature violated the state's open meetings law in passing the law The court ruled with breakneck speed—on the same day it decided to take the case. The decision quickly drew large crowds of protesters to Madison.

"In effect, the Supreme Court said the majority can make any backroom deal it wants," AFT president Randi Weingarten says. "It's hard to understand how the Wisconsin Supreme Court could accept and decide a case of this magnitude—one that guts 50 years of collective bargaining—in a single day."

In her dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote about the 4-3 majority: "They inappropriately use this court's original jurisdiction, make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties' arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891."

"The speed with which the majority acted was not what former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren meant when he used the phrase 'all deliberate speed,'" Weingarten says. "We are disappointed but not surprised by the Supreme Court ruling and will redouble our efforts to restore a fair and democratic process to Wisconsin. The hundreds of thousands of people who have demonstrated their disagreement with the governor's and Legislature's attempts to silence the voice of the public deserve no less.

"Toward that end, our affiliates and other unions have filed suit in federal court because we believe the budget repair bill violates the U.S. Constitution by stripping away basic rights to organize, bargain and associate for most public employees in Wisconsin. The suit was filed in federal court, as it is clear the state's Supreme Court, which has acted in a similarly partisan and political manner as Gov. Walker and the Republican-dominated Legislature, will not be a fair forum." [AFT press release]

June 15, 2011