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“Not Done Yet”: Wisconsin’s Gov Scott Walker Targets Collective Bargaining, Again

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) caused a massive uproar in 2011 when he and his Republican allies eliminated collective-bargaining rights for most state employees, most notably public school teachers. The policy, which Walker neglected to mention to voters before he was elected, positioned the Republican governor as one of the nation’s fiercest opponents of organized labor.

Indeed, Walker later admitted his tactics were intended to “divide and conquer” his opponents in Wisconsin unions.

Viewer Dave Wollert emailed us this week to let us know Walker isn’t quite done dividing and conquering.

Two-and-a-half years after mostly sparing police officers and firefighters, Gov. Scott Walker said this week he is open to the idea of limiting their ability to collectively bargain.

Such a move would undercut the few unions where he has found support. The unions for Milwaukee officers and firefighters, for example, were among those that endorsed Walker in 2010 and in the 2012 attempt to recall him from office.

After expressing his openness to the idea on Monday, Walker hedged a little on Tuesday, telling reporters he doesn’t have “a specific proposal” that he’s currently “pushing.”

And while that may be mildly comforting to firefighters who want to keep their collective-bargaining rights, it doesn’t change the fact that the Republican governor has an opportunity to take those rights away, and he’s clearly interested in doing just that. Indeed, in context, it’s worth keeping in mind that Walker conceded that the topic came up in legislative discussions — suggesting some state GOP policymakers may well pursue the policy.

In case anyone needs a reminder, Walker’s union-busting policy is, from a labor perspective, simply atrocious.

Under the law, known as Act 10, most public-sector unions can bargain over base wages but nothing else. That makes it impossible for the unions to negotiate over issues such as working conditions, overtime, health care, sick leave and vacation. In negotiations over wages, they can seek raises that are no greater than the rate of inflation.

They also face much tougher standards to achieve recognition from the state. For instance, in annual votes they must win 51% support from all workers eligible to be in the union, not just those voting…. Another aspect of Act 10 required public workers to pay more for their pensions and health care, effectively cutting their take-home pay.

And now the governor is open to applying the law to some of the only public employees in Wisconsin who weren’t punished under the 2011 bill.

As Scott Walker gears up for a national campaign in 2016, he appears to have positioned himself as the most anti-union Republican in recent memory.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 1, 2013

August 3, 2013 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amoral And Illegal: Gov Walker Misleads On His Administration’s Legal Support For GOP Legislators

Last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker put a deceptively positive gloss on the legal battles surrounding his stalled union-busting bill in an interview with the right-wing Newsmax website.

Background on the Legal Battles

As CMD has reported, Governor Walker’s union-busting bill (“Act 10”) was amended by a conference committee on March 11 to avoid quorum requirements, then passed by the Wisconsin Senate with no Democrats present. State Open Meetings laws require 24 hours notice for all meetings, or two hours with “good cause,” but neither standard was met at the March 11 vote. Following a complaint from Dane County’s District Attorney, Judge MaryAnn Sumi found a probable Open Meetings violation and issued an order preventing the Secretary of State from publishing the bill, a necessary step before it can become law. Attorney General JB Van Hollen appealed the decision, and the Court of Appeals offered the case to the state Supreme Court on March 24, which has not taken action (possibly because Justice Prosser’s election is still pending). In the meantime, the Legislative Reference Bureau published the law under statutory authority separate from that of the Secretary of State, raising questions of whether the bill has become law, and prompting Judge Sumi to issue an order declaring it not to be in effect.

On April 7, Governor Walker’s Administration jumped into the fray and asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to vacate Judge Sumi’s order.

Walker Administration’s Legal Position Contrary to Governor’s Statements

The Walker Administration’s petition was discussed during the Governor’s videotaped interview with mustachioed Newsmax anchor Ashley Martell. Walker said:

My administration this week appealed to the state Supreme Court on two counts. Really both on […] the fact that we don’t believe it is legitimate for the judge to be an issuing a temporary restraining order when we think the law was dufully (sic) passed by the members of the state legislature. (at 3:29)

Mustache Martella replied: “speaking of that, the legal issue seems to be the notice given before the vote . . .”

The heart of the issue that is regarding the restraining order really involves the issue of the open meetings laws and whether or not there was notice on that. The legislature feels, and I think they are right about this, that they very clearly did follow the statute, that under other circumstances there might be a problem, but in a special session . . . it is clear that they followed the law. (at 4:12)

Despite Walker’s faith in the conduct of fellow Wisconsin Republicans, his legal team is not contending that GOP legislators followed the law, but only that violations of that law be enforced more leniently. In its petition to the Supreme Court, not once does Walker’s Administration argue that Republican legislators acted lawfully.

Walker’s petition focuses on three issues, claiming (1) that breaking an Open Meetings law is a “procedural violation” that cannot be punished through voiding a legislative act, (2) that a court does not have jurisdiction to prevent a bill from becoming law (even if it may have authority to void a law once enacted), and (3) that the Act is published and is now law, meaning Sumi’s order has no relevance. The brief also questions whether the District Attorney can sue to invalidate a statute, and whether Judge Sumi could enter an order considering defendants’ legislative immunity. Significantly, the petition does not discuss whether legislative notice rules can override Open Meetings laws (which, if argued, could have implied legislators acted lawfully).

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Walker’s Newsmax statements give the impression that legislators acted honorably, avoiding the fact that they may have illegally shut citizens out of the political process, violated the state’s constitutionally-recognized open government guarantees, and did so on a bill that has a significant impact and massive public attention. This is no small matter. As the late Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice William Bablitch wrote in the 1994 case State ex rel. Hodge vs. Town of Turtle Lake: 

The purpose of the Open Meetings Law is to protect the public’s right to be informed to the fullest extent of the affairs of government. . . An open meetings law is not necessary to ensure openness in easy and noncontroversial matters where no one really cares whether the meeting is open or not. Like the First Amendment, which exists to protect unfavored speech, the Open Meetings Law exists to ensure open government in controversial matters.

Open Meetings laws are fundamentally important to Wisconsin’s democracy, and violations are serious business. If Walker genuinely believes the GOP lawmakers’ actions were virtuous and lawful, his administration’s legal documents should reflect that.

By: Brenda Fisher, Center for Media and Democracy, April 13, 2011

April 14, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Democracy, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Public Employees, Right Wing, State Legislatures, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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