Unions representing Madison teachers and Milwaukee sanitation workers sued Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday, alleging that the controversial law severely restricting the collective bargaining rights of most public workers in Wisconsin is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit, brought by Madison Teachers Inc. and AFL-CIO Local 61 in Milwaukee alleges that the state legislature passed what was originally called the budget repair bill in violation of the state constitution's provision that governs special legislative sessions.
The lawsuit also alleges that the law places severe and unfair restrictions on what unions and their members can discuss with municipalities and school districts, and imposes severe wage increase limits that don't apply to nonunion workers.
"The changes to the collective bargaining laws crushed the ability of municipal employees and teachers to associate with their co-workers and to work together to achieve better wages, hours and working conditions," said Lester Pines, lawyer for MTI.
Pines said in a statement that the legislation punishes union members by restriction wage increases not imposed upon nonunion workers and places onerous burdens on union members who want to keep their unions.
"All that violates the Wisconsin constitution," Pines said.
State Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck said DOJ, which represents the state in legal matters, had no comment on the lawsuit. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie referred questions to the state Department of Administration, which could not be reached for comment.
This is the third lawsuit now pending over the measure. Two others, also filed by labor organizations, are now pending in U.S. District Court in Madison.
According to the new suit, the burdens on union members "were the result of defendant Walker's and the Legislature's motive to stifle and retaliate against public employee unions because of their protected associational, speech, petition and advocacy activities," in violation of the state constitution.
The lawsuit also claims that state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, "publicly stated that the changes to the collective bargaining law were about eliminating unions so that 'the money is not there' for the labor movement and to make it 'much more difficult' for President Obama to win re-election in Wisconsin."
The measure also ignored the constitution's limits on special sessions and its home rule protections for the city of Milwaukee, according to the lawsuit.
The MTI lawsuit was filed in Dane County Circuit Court and assigned to Circuit Judge Patrick Fiedler.