Wisconsin's recall-facing Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his legislative allies received a stunning rebuke from a federal court on Friday that ruled the state's Act 10 that stripped most state employee unions of the collective bargaining rights and dues-collecting authority was an unconstitutional abuse of power.
The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge William Conley, which struck down those sections of the law, held that the Legislature had the right to deny union bargaining rights, so long as that policy was applied evenly across all state employee unions--not just the ones opposing the Governor's or his party's policies. In Act 10, Walker generally exempted state police and public safety unions from the bargaining and dues-collecting restrictions.
"The Act’s treatment of the Capital Police, who endorsed the Governor’s opponent, in comparison to its treatment of state vehicle inspectors, who endorsed the Governor, best illustrates this suspect line-drawing," Conley wrote, saying that targeting of some unions violated the Constitution's equal protection clause.
"There is no dispute that a state may bar its public employees from engaging in any form of collective bargaining. The only question is whether a state may restrict the collective bargaining rights to one category of public unions while allowing full rights to another category," he wrote. "The new, expansive restrictions on collective bargaining bears no rational relationship to a legitimate government interest in avoiding strikes of those employees."