Courtesy of the Journal Sentinel
Madison - An appeals court asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to quickly take up a case over Gov. Scott Walker's controversial law on collective bargaining, saying the high court should decide the issue without the appeals court ruling on it.
If the seven-member Supreme Court agrees to take the case, it would speed up final resolution over whether parts of Act 10 violate the state constitution. If the Supreme Court does not accept the case, the Madison-based District 4 Court of Appeals will have to issue a ruling on the case.
A Dane County Circuit Court judge in September found parts of the law violated the state constitution's guarantee of free association and equal protection under the law. The two sides dispute whether the ruling affects only the unions who brought the case or virtually all teachers and local government employees in Wisconsin.
"It is hard to imagine a dispute with greater statewide effect or with a greater need for a final resolution by the Supreme Court," the three appeals judges wrote in their unanimous request for the Supreme Court to take the case.
"Although the parties do not address the topic, news accounts suggest that several municipal employers are engaged in legal disputes relating to this topic, and many more are left in limbo wondering whether they are better off engaging in some type of tentative bargaining or refusing to engage with employee representatives. We urge the Supreme Court to accept this certification and put these legal issues to rest."
The request comes two days after the unions who brought the lawsuit filed a motion with Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colás asking him to block the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission from enforcing parts of Act 10 because of the judge's September ruling.
The suit was brought by Madison Teachers Inc. and Public Employees Local 61, which represents City of Milwaukee employees.
In his ruling last year, Colás found parts of Act 10 violated the associational rights and equal protection rights of local government employees who chose to join a union because it treated them differently than employees who did not choose to join a union. Specifically, those in a union are limited by how much they can seek in wage increases, while those not in a union can seek any amount from their bosses, the judge said.
Colás also ruled Act 10 violated the home-rule clause of the state constitution because it dictated how much Milwaukee employees had to pay into their city pension funds.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who is trying to overturn the lower court ruling, said in a statement he is confident Act 10 is constitutional and called the appeals court's request a "positive development."
"Any remaining issues concerning Act 10 need to be resolved as soon as possible and this action by the Court of Appeals gives the Wisconsin Supreme Court an opportunity to resolve them in a final, binding decision," Van Hollen's statement said.