WI state supreme court upholds curbs on public employee bargaining
Wisconsin Governor Scott Brown was handed two big victories by the state supreme court. The court upheld the guts of Act 10 - the controversial law that prohibits public employee unions from negotiating for anything except base wage increases. It also requires public unions to collect dues from members rather than having the dues deducted from paychecks.
The court also OK'd the state's voter ID law, although that is being challenged in federal court.
In a 5-2 ruling, the court upheld Walker's law, which, among other things, prohibits public worker unions from bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases tied to inflation.
"No matter the limitations or 'burdens' a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation. The 1st Amendment cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect," Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority.
In a statement, Walker, who is also a potential aspirant for the 2016 GOP national ticket, touted his victory. The state maintains that the law has allowed sizable cost savings through cuts in public employee benefits, and changes to insurance and some work rules, including overtime.
"Act 10 has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 billion," Walker said. "Today's ruling is a victory for those hard-working taxpayers."
Walker unveiled the bill shortly after taking office in 2011. The move led to efforts in other Midwestern states run by Republicans to curb the power of unions, often allied with Democrats. The unions and Democrats, after losing on policy, fought back, hoping to win politically. By 2012, Walker had been pushed into a recall election against the same candidate he had defeated earlier. In the June 2012 special election, Walker again triumphed and became the first governor to survive a recall election.
The voter ID law will probably end up with the Supreme Court deciding the issue. It is doubtful the case will be settled before the November election.
These victories, however, certainly boost Governor Walker's political fortunes. He's currently locked in a tight re-election battle and will benefit from Act 10's popularity with the voters. What it does for his national political aspirations is hard to say. He will have to win re-election first - and fairly convincingly - if he wants to seriously be considered for the Republican presidential nomination. After that, it's difficult to see how he can nationalize Act 10. Several other GOP governors attempted to rein in public employee unions and got singed for their troubles. Walker is going to have to come up with something better if he expects to compete in 2016.