LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – On Thursday morning, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court gave final approval to Governor Scott Walker's Act 10 law, stripping most collective bargaining rights from state employees.
It was one of two ruling cheered by conservatives on Thursday, as the Supreme Court also approved the voter I.D. Law.
In 2011, a law passed by the republican controlled legislature and signed by Governor Walker ended most collective bargaining rights for state employees with the goal of helping save cities, counties, and school districts money.
The law allowed these entities to impose cuts in benefits and working conditions on workers, without having to negotiate wages with workers unions. The law has been in effect for three years, even as the legal challenges played out.
“I think this is an affirmation of what we did is legal, that it's constitutional, and I hope it's one of those as a kind of a move on point,” Gov. Walker said. “People realize that that can no longer be challenged in the state court. This affirms a clear difference in this race. We will allow act ten to go forward."
Act 10 limits bargaining powers of union workers, and lowers the cost for state and local governments—but it still impacts local economies.
"It has helped reduce some budget costs for state and local governments, but at t the same time, the way that's done, you're passing that cost onto local employees, state employees,” UW-La Crosse Assistant Professor of Political Science Jacob Holt said. “Therefore, you're going to assume since, for instance retirement, they're having to pay more for that. That means less money they're taking home, that may have an impact on the local economies in certain places too. There is a benefit in terms of budget cuts, but the way that has been done, that may have impact on the local economies in Wisconsin.”
Holt said politically, it's actually a good ruling for democrats. “More of it stops a negative happening for democrats than a positive happening for democrats,” Holt said. “If it would've been overturned, it would probably have helped inspire republican turnout."
95th Assembly Representative Jill Billings served on the La Crosse County Board for eight years before she was elected to the assembly, and said collective bargaining worked well for the county.
"We sat down respectively with our employees and bargained across the table, and it worked well for us,” Billings said. “We're the 5th-lowest of taxes of all the counties in Wisconsin, and we had good experiences bargaining with our employees."
Billings said the Supreme Court ruling is a step backwards for union workers. "Without our healthy middle class, Wisconsin is not going to be able to go forward,” Billings said. “Allowing employees to collectively bargain insured good healthy middle class of Wisconsin, and I see this as erosion of our middle class that's so important."
Holt said he doesn't believe there will be any additional political divisiveness within the state over Act 10, but it could still have a slight impact on the upcoming governor and senate elections in October.
Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Mary Burke disagreed with the ruling on Act 10 today, and said workers “should have the right to collectively bargain”. At the same time, if elected, Burke has not said whether she would work to repeal Act 10.
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