Tag Archives: scott walker

What the Act 10 Ruling Means

On Friday afternoon, Facebook exploded with news that a Dane County judge had once again overturned key parts of Act 10, the “Budget Repair Bill” that took away key bargaining rights for members of state and local Wisconsin unions.

I was skeptical. After all, the same thing happened in March, the case went to the Supreme Court and the ruling was struck down. Besides, overturning a bargaining law based on the freedoms of speech and assembly seemed rather farfetched. (Here’s a link to the ruling itself.)

Also, striking down a law that’s already been used in bargaining for over  a year seemed like it would have some far reaching consequences. And it does, though what those are remains to be seen.

Let me clear a couple things up right off the bat. The ruling doesn’t apply to state employees because no state unions took part in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs were Madison Teachers, Inc. a Madison teachers union and Public Employees Local 61, a union representing employees of the City of Milwaukee. If a state union had also been a plaintiff, it would apply to the state as well. Along with that, technically this ruling only applies to those two specific unions and won’t apply to the whole state unless the appeals court also agrees with Judge Juan Colas. However, both the plaintiffs and the Attorney General’s office are considering this ruling as applying to the whole state. So for now, it does.

Second, this will definitely be appealed, and because of that, the Attorney General’s office has a right to ask for an injunction on the ruling until the appeals process is over. Van Hollen announced on Saturday that he would be seeking one. If that injunction is granted, nothing changes until this again reaches the Supreme Court.  Because believe me, it will.

Now, for some context.

Act 10/the “Budget Repair Bill/whatever else you want to call it did a few things. (You can try to muddle through the bill itself here, but I don’t recommend it.) One, it created two different types, or “classes” of unions. There are “public safety” unions, which include some police, some firefighters and some other unions, most of whom supported Walker in his 2010 election bid. (Of course, that had nothing to do with who was chosen to count as a public safety union. Nothing at all.) Then there’s every other union, now called “general” unions. General unions are no longer allowed to deduct dues from the paychecks of their members, make non-members of their profession pay “fair share dues,” doesn’t allow them to bargain for wages above cost of living increases and makes general unions have to recertify every year. Public safety unions don’t have to abide by those rules.

There are some other changes, but that’s basically what all the fuss has been about. And rightfully so. Unions use dues to fund pretty much everything they do. Without being allowed to take wages from paychecks, even if the members ask for it, they’re getting less money. By making it so you can’t get higher than cost of living increases if you’re part of a union, it makes more sense to NOT be part of one. Making non-members not have to pay “fair share” dues means that when a union bargains for all the members of a profession, all non-members benefit from the union’s work without having to pay the union for it’s help. It’s a lose-lose-lose-lose situation for the unions that really doesn’t have anything to do with balancing the budget.

So there are a few different main challenges presented by the plaintiffs in this case.

  1. The Act was passed in violation of special session rules.
  2. The Act violates the right to free speech and association.
  3. The law violates what’s called the “Home Rule Law.”

One is pretty straightforward, all in all. The Governor can call a special session of the Legislature and can say what the Legislature is going to talk about when they get there. In Executive Order  #14, Walker said one of the purposes of the session was to discuss the Budget Repair Bill and then began circulating that through the Legislature.

The plaintiffs tried to say that the session was to talk about budget repair, not the bill itself. A flimsy argument all in all. As Judge Colas said: “The question in evaluating the governor’s call is whether it served the purpose of notice to the public and the legislature of the nature of the business to be conducted at the special session. Those purposes were served in this case by the specific reference to the Budget Repair Bill and the concurrent submission of the legislation and a summary of it to the legislative leadership.”

Now we get to the interesting stuff: the second challenge based on free speech and assembly.

Remember how I said the bill created two different classes of unions and restricted what members of unions can bargain for versus nonunion members?

Well, there’s this little thing called the First Amendment and in it it says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting freedom of association. Now, Walker argues that while the statutes “burden the economic effectiveness of plaintiff’s associational activities,” the Act doesn’t take away the right to associate in the first place.

However, that doesn’t fly based on precedent in other cases. In Lawson v. The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee the court ruled that holding out privileges – such as being able to bargain for pay above the cost of living – as a condition of non-membership in an organization is a more subtle encroachment of liberties, but “may be equally violative of the constitution.”

Colas holds that Act 10 does the same thing here: “(These statutes) single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions.”

He says it also violates Equal Protection, which is essentially the obligation of the state to treat people equally unless it can prove it has a really good reason not to. To prove that the government is violating Equal Protection, you have to show that the law “treats members of a similarly situated class differently.” However, if the state can show a rational basis for doing this, then the court will support it. (Rational basis is generally up to the court.)

And the statute does do just that. There are now two classes of employees, municipal employees represented by unions and municipal employees NOT represented by unions.

Now, the state argues that they didn’t actually create the classes. Instead, people decide what class they belong to when they decide whether or not to join a union.

Side note: That makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE! AT ALL. It makes so little sense I can’t even think of a simile for it.

Anyway, Judge Colas disagreed and said that the state is treating people in similarly situated classes differently, both in terms of rights and in terms of payroll deductions. I won’t get into payroll deductions, but needless to say there are now three classes: general unions, public safety and transit unions, and then there is everyone else. Each group is similar but treated differently. ‘Nuff said.

The third challenge is to Wisconsin’s “Home Rule” Law. Essentially, this is like the separation of powers between federal and state, but at a more local level. Municipalities can decide what to do with their workers unless a law is passed that affects the entire state. Milwaukee had passed an ordinance that said that the City would pay the employees’ share of their pensions. That is now illegal under Act 10. Judge Colas ruled that the law interferes with Milwaukee’s power to govern it’s “local affairs.”

Now, I have to admit things like the Home Rule are not my forte. I can talk about the First Amendment all day long, but that’s kinda my thing.

So if you want a better explanation of the Home Rule, you won’t find it from me.

Phew. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a legal analysis. Let me know if I missed anything, and in the meantime, you have all the details to be that one smart-ass in the conversation who actually knows what’s going on. Enjoy!


Lessons in losing

Today is another break from Teh Commerz Clawz day. (Though according to my ever-growing page hits, I’m pretty popular when you search for anything regarding Gibbons v. Ogden or FDR’s court packing plan. LOLZ.)

This post has been floating around in my head since before the brutal attempt on Congresswoman Giffords’ life and the resulting discussion surrounding the dangers of overblown political vitriol. So let me preface this by stating that I don’t believe someone as out of touch with reality as Laughner really paid that much attention to politics. Selectively maybe, but the immediate conclusion that political name-calling led to her death is ridiculous. Thankfully some columnists kept their heads while the rest of the media was losing theirs, and it seems discussions about gun control and mental illness are finally springing forward. Ugh.

But back to my point. I’ve been thinking about this idea of bitter, mean-spirited politics since January 1st, actually. Several of my more liberal minded friends started ranting about how life was going to be over in Wisconsin as soon as Scott Walker took office, and were instrumental in calling for his repeal.

First, there’s the bit where Walker can’t just be repealed like he’s an offensive bill, since he’s an actual elected official that won fair and square. Obviously. But that’s not the issue. The issue is the current insistence on combativeness in the political process. (If you need another example, the Republican insistence on a symbolic health care vote should be enough.)

Now I understand that politics create controversy. My opinion is not going to be the opinion of someone on the far right. Or the far left either. And I don’t expect those two people to agree either with me or with each other. That’s what makes democracy work, and theoretically with debate and compromise all those different ideas lead to the best deal for everyone in America. But that’s not what happens anymore.

Instead we end up with the ridiculous amount of name-calling familiar to anyone who even vaguely follows politics. This person is the incarnation of the devil! This person’s policies will make your crops wither and die! That person is a witch! This liberal wants to send all our old people to death camps! That conservative is a Nazi and wants you to march in lock-step for the rest of your life as punishment for having brown hair!

I only made up the second and part of the fifth one.

As soon as the opposing party takes power, suddenly the world is going to end. “Life will never be the same!” the losing party exclaims. “This is the worst thing to happen to our (city, district, state, country) since (last terrible buzz-person) ran everything into the ground! Run for the hills!” They inflame their staunchest members with floods of fund-raising emails. They tell half-truths when they can. They get everyone they can all riled up. And suddenly people actually believe that the President wants death panels. They believe that this person is the incarnation of the Devil or is a witch or a Nazi or a terrorist or whatever the buzz-word of the day is. Not everyone pays enough attention to know better.

This just isn’t on the left or on the right. This isn’t just from the Republicans or Fox News. This comes from Democrats and MSNBC commentators as well.

We’ve forgotten, as a country, how to lose gracefully. We’ve lost our sportsmanship. We’ve lost our ability to shake hands with someone that ran a better campaign than we did and tell them “Good game. There’s always next time.” We’ve somehow misplaced the lessons taught to us when we were young, lessons about not throwing down our ball and stomping away to pout when the game doesn’t go our way.

And we, as people involved and commenting on the political process of the United States of America need to relearn that skill. Maybe, if there’s anything to learn from this truly pointless murder spree, it’s how to lose gracefully again.

Instead of continuing to rant myself (I have to admit this was far less intimidating to talk about before a prominent Congresswoman almost died) I’m going to let one of the only people I still fully trust in politics finish off with a talk of his own.

I give you: Jon Stewart. He says it better than I do anyway.

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I voted. Have you?

I voted picWow. It’s been almost a month since I posted anything? Mea culpa, my friends.

To be honest, I’ve had so much to say and so little time to research my positions that I’ve said nothing at all. I had a blog planned on the ridiculous political attack ads running (especially the one from the College Republicans called “I am Debt“), another on how Dems should really quit running away from their accomplishments, and yet another two, one on Wisconsin candidates and one on Nevada candidates.

However, since I obviously failed in that attempt, let me just make a few simple statements.

I voted for Tom Barrett, Russ Feingold,  and Tammy Baldwin. I did this because well, jobs and economy aside (if that’s even possible, but try for a few seconds), I like birth control. I like being allowed to do what I want with my body. And Scott Walker isn’t cool with that. If I got raped and was brought into the hospital, Scott Walker doesn’t want me to have access to Plan B. Which, news flash, is not an abortion pill. Also, I’m extremely thankful for my Badgercare and would like to keep it. Walker’s not too keen on that either.

I’m voting for Tom Barrett because Rebecca Kleefisch, Scott Walker’s running mate, thinks that same-sex marriage is the same as marrying inanimate objects, and I can say for sure that all my LGBT friends are not inanimate objects and neither are their partners. Neither is Tammy Baldwin or her partner.

I’m voting for Russ Feingold because he has shown over the last 18 years of government that he votes on his principles, including voting against the Patriot Act and against the war in Iraq, not along party lines, and I would much rather have someone like that than someone like Ron Johnson that doesn’t care about the details and thinks global warming is a myth caused by sun spots. (If you missed science classes in high school, sun spots are cooler areas of the sun. I think he meant solar flares?)

I’m voting for Tammy Baldwin…well, honestly, because I’ve met her and I love her. She’s a great person. But also because she supports marriage equality, because she supports health care reform, because she supports green energy. I trust that when I vote for Tammy, I’m continuing to leave Madison’s interests in capable hands.

These beliefs are why I went door-to-door in my neighborhood today with Fair Wisconsin, trying to GOTV for these three candidates.

These are my beliefs and this is my vote. What’re yours?