Judge declines to stay ruling striking down parts of collective bargaining law

2012-10-23T09:30:00Z 2014-02-26T19:35:10Z Judge declines to stay ruling striking down parts of collective bargaining lawED TRELEVEN | Wisconsin State Journal | etreleven@madison.com | 608-252-6134 madison.com

A Dane County judge said Monday that he won't delay enforcement of his September ruling that overturned parts of the state's collective bargaining law while the state appeals it.

Circuit Judge Juan Colas said the state has not shown that it would suffer irreparable harm if his ruling, which restored collective bargaining rights to municipal and school district unions, was not put on hold until a state appeals court decides whether to overturn the ruling.

On Sept. 14, Colas ruled that parts of the law are unconstitutional infringements on municipal and school district workers' right of free speech, freedom of association and equal protection. The law, which took effect in June 2011 after a tumultuous special legislative session and massive protests at the Capitol, had all but banned collective bargaining for most state, municipal and school workers. Colas' decision did not affect state workers, who were not a party to the lawsuit in which Colas ruled.

Colas wrote that issuing a stay that would put his decision on hold would allow continued violations of the state and federal constitutions, contrary to the public interest.

"The constitutions are the fundamental expressions of the will of the people acting in their sovereign capacity," Colas wrote. "Even laws enacted by the legislature and the governor, though they may manifest the popular will of their time, are subordinate to them. Even a temporary infringement of fundamental rights of speech and association protected by the constitutions is an irreparable harm."

The state had argued that it would suffer harm if Colas did not stay his September ruling, including confusion and budgeting problems for municipal employers.

But Colas wrote that the state offered no proof of any harm, irreparable or otherwise, that was likely to occur if he did not issue a stay. He wrote that the state also failed to show that by granting the stay there would not be substantial harm to other interested parties, such as employee unions.

State Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck said the state will now ask the state Court of Appeals to stay Colas' September decision.

In his ruling, Colas emphasized that his September decision was narrowly tailored and struck down only certain statutes related to the state collective bargaining law.

"The decision only requires municipal employers to bargain in good faith," Colas wrote. "Nothing in it requires employers to agree to any proposals made in collective bargaining."

He also wrote that his decision did not restore binding arbitration. And it doesn't require employers to offer payroll deduction of union dues if they don't currently have such a system, he wrote, but instead lets local governments choose to do so.

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