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Federal appeals court upholds Act 10

Gilman Halsted

Wisconsin Public Radio

A federal appeals court has upheld Wisconsin’s “Act 10,” which restricts the right of public unions to collectively bargain. The attorney for labor unions in the case says the ruling sends a troubling message.

The lawsuit, filed in 2011 by city and county workers in Madison, claimed the law violated provisions of the U.S. Constitution that grant workers and other local associations the right to bargain voluntarily with local governments.

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the federal Constitution doesn’t require the state to maintain policies that allow certain associations to negotiate contracts.

Attorney Bruce Ehlke called the ruling “disappointing,” especially in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that lift election spending limits for corporations and wealthy individuals.

“What we’ve got is the 7th Circuit telling us the state can’t limit what the big guys spend, [but] it can limit what the little guys say,” Ehlke said. “In effect, that’s what’s going on.”

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says today’s ruling supports the rule of law.

Act 10 still faces a challenge from the Madison teacher’s union, which claims the law violates the state rather than the federal constitution. That case is pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.