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Latest News - June 2011

June 15, 2011
Wisconsin court upholds anti-union legislation

State workers to lose most bargaining rights after state's supreme court reinstates Republican legislation

Wisconsin's highest court has ruled that a controversial measure curbing the collective bargaining rights of public workers in the state can take effect.

The supreme court on Tuesday overturned a lower court ruling that Republican legislators violated the state's open meetings law when they passed the measure in March.

The law eliminates most collective bargaining rights for public workers and requires them to pay more for pensions and health coverage. It prompted a national debate over unions.

It was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by the governor, Scott Walker, in March despite the largest public protests in Madison since the Vietnam war.

In May a circuit court judge hearing one of several challenges against the measure voided it, accepting the argument that Republican legislators had violated Wisconsin's strict open meetings law.

But in its ruling on Tuesday the supreme court said the judge had overstepped her authority and violated the separation of powers in the state constitution.

The court said: "One of the courts that we are charged with overseeing has usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin constitution grants exclusively to the legislature ... exceeded its jurisdiction, invaded the legislature's constitutional powers ... and erred in enjoining the publication and further implementation of the Act."

Walker, who said the measure was needed to help the state fix its finances, welcomed the judgment, saying it "provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again".

Wisconsin's attorney general, JB Van Hollen, said the supreme court had "vindicated" the administration's arguments.

The fractious debate over the measure propelled Wisconsin to the forefront of a wider national political fight as Republicans who took control of many state legsislatures in the 2010 midterm elections made reining in public unions a top priority.

Democrats have said the anti-union push is an attempt to weaken political support from some of their strongest constituencies. But Republicans argue the compensation and bargaining rights enjoyed by public union workers are no longer affordable in an era of soaring state budget deficits.

The measure continues to roil state politics. Six of the Republican senators who supported the law, and three of the Democratic senators who opposed it, will face special recall elections in July in what may be the largest wave of such special elections in US history.



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