Act 10 “Flavor of the Day”

Court rulings in both federal and Wisconsin state courts have overturned some key aspects of Act 10. (“Act 10” refers to 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, the bill that affected a sea change in collective bargaining and other issues related to municipal employees.) However, both rulings are being appealed.

In addition, there are other cases pending that may affect Act 10. It could be years before the dust finally settles. In the meantime, local municipalities and public sector unions must cope with the uncertainty created by the court rulings.

As a result of the court rulings, some unions have approached municipal employers demanding that the employers begin negotiations as if Act 10 never existed. Bakke Norman recommends that a municipality contacted with a demand for negotiations contact its municipal attorney immediately so that a proper response can be formulated. Each situation will be unique, and the same advice will not apply for all municipalities.

This article is intended to give an update on those specific aspects of the law which have been affected by these rulings. However, keep in mind that this is a lot like the “flavor of the day” of Act 10. There are still lawsuits and appeals that will have an impact on what municipalities, and unions, can and cannot do under Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law.

In WEAC v. Walker, 824 F.Supp.2d 856 (W.D. Wis. 2012) (appeal pending), the federal court, based mainly on equal protection and First Amendment arguments, struck down the provisions of Act 10 that:

  • Forced public unions to annually recertify by an absolute majority of union members.
  • Prohibited automatic deductions to pay dues.

In Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker, the Dane County circuit court struck down the provisions of Act 10 that:

  • Prohibited municipalities from bargaining matters other than base wages. Other matters, such as health insurance, retirement contributions and working conditions, may be the subject of collective bargaining.
  • Required a referendum to raise wages beyond the consumer price index.
  • Required unions to recertify annually and required a majority vote from all employees (need only a majority of those voting).
  • Prohibited “fair share” agreements.
  • Prohibited payroll deductions to collect union dues.
  • In a section affecting only the City of Milwaukee, Judge Colas ruled the City has the right to local control of its own pension system.

Judge Colas subsequently denied a request to stay enforcement of his decision pending appeal.

As noted above, these cases have both been appealed. Some unions and some municipalities (e.g., Dane County) were very quick to act under the new rulings. Local municipalities may also see renewed union requests or proposals. We advise municipalities to contact their municipal attorneys immediately if a municipality receives such a request.

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