Milwaukee requests to join Act 10 lawsuit

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The City of Milwaukee has formally requested to join a state lawsuit that could decide the constitutionality of Gov. Scott Walker’s collective-bargaining law, Act 10.

The lawsuit was spearheaded by the Madison teachers’ union and the Milwaukee city employee union. It prevailed in circuit court and has moved on to the Court of Appeals in Madison’s district.

John Matthews, executive director at Madison Teachers Inc., said the organization filed the lawsuit in order to argue that the law violated the rights of Wisconsin workers.

“We represent 4,700 employees in the Madison Metropolitan School District,” Matthews said. “We need to support their values.”

Matthews said the law has set Madison’s teachers’ union back about 54 years.

“Act 10 has caused our members to lose a substantial number of (victories) that we have gained through collective-bargaining,” Matthews said.

Matthews said about one-third of labor union workers voted for Walker, and he believes they are now regretting their decision.

“Wisconsin voters (elected) people who were against their own interests, and they see that now,” he said.

Conservatives, however, think Act 10 is necessary in order to give local municipalities the flexibility they need.

Patrick Garrett, chairman of the Marquette College Republicans, said the law has benefited schools, despite claims to the contrary.

“School districts are saving money and have been given more flexibility because of the reforms Act 10 has enacted,” he said.

Garrett said the recall in June proved that Wisconsinites are ready for change and that they support Walker’s decision.

“The Governor won by a decisive 7 percent margin after initially winning election in 2010,” Garrett said. “Governor Walker entered office facing a budget shortfall, and if these reforms were not enacted, many of these workers would have lost their jobs because the State of Wisconsin would not be able to afford their salaries.”

On Sept. 14, Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas struck down Walker’s collective-bargaining law.

Colas ruled that the law violated workers’ constitutional rights to free speech, free association and equal representation under the law by placing a cap on union workers’ raises while keeping the raises of their nonunion counterparts open.

Despite Colas’ ruling, the Wisconsin Supreme Court could overturn the decision, like it did in June 2011, after it was struck down by a different Dane County judge in an earlier case.

Zachary Bowman, the president of the Marquette College Democrats, said the lawsuit against Act 10 is justified because it violates basic freedoms that are guaranteed through the First Amendment and Wisconsin’s constitution.

The College Democrats have made efforts to support the lawsuit and the rights of union workers.

“Now that we’re in our post-election stage, we’ll be turning to more issue advocacy-based work, and the implications of Act 10 are certainly a part of that,” Bowman said.

Bowman said the law has negatively impacted Wisconsin’s schools but has had little impact on private universities like Marquette.

“Marquette isn’t directly affected, as far as I know,” he said. “However, our role as an institution of social justice should encourage all of us to advocate for justice on this issue.”

Matthews said he does not see the lawsuit going to Supreme Court.

“The decision is so soundly based on constitutional rights to freedom of speech, association and equal protection,” he said. “It would be a waste  of the state’s money to appeal (the lawsuit).”

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