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Seventh Circuit Hears Wisconsin Act 10 Appeal

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Monday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in Wisconsin Education Association v. Scott Walker, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Wisconsin Act 10 limits on collective bargaining among public employees.

The clauses at the center of the lawsuit halt automatic withdrawal of union dues from public paychecks and require that unions hold elections annually to reconfirm their official status, The Associated Press reports. In March, District Judge William Conley held that both provisions were illegal.

The Wisconsin legislature passed Act 10 in 2011, amid protest from state employees and unions. The act cut back collective bargaining rights for teachers and most city and county employees, but exempted police officers and firefighters, The New York Times reports.

During arguments, Act 10 opponents claimed that the distinction was a form of political payback that afforded special treatment to groups that typically favor Republicans. Attorneys for the state countered that there was no proof that political motivation trumped legitimate financial and policy concerns when crafting the policy, the AP reports.

There are at least three challenges to the Wisconsin union law currently pending in state and federal courts.

Earlier this month, Wisconsin Judge Juan B. Colás overturned Act 10 provisions regarding city, county and school district workers, finding that the sections violated the federal and state Constitutions equal protection guarantees.

Judge Colás concluded that the law hurt the teachers’ union and others by prohibiting cities, counties and school districts from collecting dues from employee paychecks and passing them on to unions because there was no such prohibition regarding the similarly-situated public safety unions, according to The New York Times.

The Seventh Circuit’s ruling on the matter is probably several months away.

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