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Unions argue in lawsuit seeking to end Act 10 collective bargaining restrictions

Wisconsin court voids $289K judgment for protesters
Posted at 1:43 PM, May 29, 2024

MADISON — Teachers and public unions were in court Tuesday fighting to get back the collective bargaining rights they lost more than a decade ago.

Their lawsuit is the latest challenge to Act 10 – a law that almost completely eliminated the ability for unions to negotiate contracts on behalf of most public employees. The law set off massive, weekslong protests at the state Capitol when then-Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, proposed it in 2011.

More than 13 years later, Act 10 has caused union membership in Wisconsin to drop steeply, and pay for teachers hasn’t kept up with inflation under the new law, according to a 2023 analysis by the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

Teachers and unions argued in court today that the law is unconstitutional because it makes exceptions for police and firefighter unions – namely unions that supported Walker in the 2010 election.

Attorneys for the Republican-controlled Legislature and the state agencies named in the lawsuit argued that the Legislature has the authority to draw those lines without violating the state constitution. They said certain unions were exempted from the law because it would be too much of a safety risk if certain employees took part in strikes.

The lawsuit is the first challenge to Act 10 since the Wisconsin Supreme Court flipped to liberal control last year. Because the lawsuit is beginning at the circuit court level, it could take more than a year for it to reach the Supreme Court and receive a final ruling.