Wis. judge rejects request to reinstate union law
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge refused Monday to put on hold his earlier decision repealing major parts of Gov. Scott Walker's law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas to place his September ruling on hold while an appeal is pending. Colas refused, saying Van Hollen and the state "failed to show that they will suffer irreparable harm if the stay is not granted."
Van Hollen's spokeswoman Dana Brueck said he would now ask the state appeals court to place the Colas ruling on hold.
The ruling last month overturned the law as it pertained to school and local government workers. The law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 applied to all public employees except police, firefighters, local transit workers and emergency medical service employees. It limits collective bargaining on wage increases to the rate of inflation. Other issues, such as workplace safety, vacation and health benefits, were excluded from collective bargaining.
Colas said in his ruling that the law violates school and local employees' constitutional rights to free speech, free association and equal representation because it caps union workers' raises but not those of their nonunion counterparts.
The decision allowed schools and local governments to bargain with their employees, and several, including those in Madison, acted quickly to take advantage of the window to reach new contacts.
Van Hollen argued in his request for a stay that not taking swift action would lead to chaos and further confusion, given that the law has been in effect for more than a year.
Lester Pines, the attorney representing the Madison teachers union that brought the lawsuit, said Colas was correct to reject the request for a stay. Pines said the state didn't show that there would be irreparable harm by not placing the ruling on hold.
"This is a very carefully crafted decision and it is based on the law in this state," Pines said. "I am confident that the court of appeals will sustain what Judge Colas did today."
The law, which Walker claimed was needed to address budget problems, has been the focal point of a broader clash between conservatives and unions over worker rights. Anger over passage of the law largely motivated the effort to recall Walker. He defeated that effort in a June election.
Walker's spokesman Cullen Werwie said Monday the governor remains confident the law will be reinstated on appeal.