May 28, 2024

Judge Hears Oral Arguments Against “Fundamentally Unequal” Act 10 Law

Judge Hears Oral Arguments Against “Fundamentally Unequal” Act 10 Law Featured Image

Attorneys representing WEAC and other public-employee unions argued in a hearing Tuesday, May 28, that the lawsuit to strike down the Wisconsin anti-bargaining law known as Act 10 should be allowed to proceed despite the Republican-controlled Legislature’s wishes to have it dismissed.

Dane County Circuit Judge Jacob Frost did not rule from the bench on Tuesday. He said he would issue a written order on the Legislators’ request to dismiss the case.

The unions’ attorneys argued that Act 10 should be struck down because it creates unconstitutional exemptions for some public employees and not others with no rational basis for unequal treatment. The attorneys have argued that the law is “fundamentally unequal,” irrational and unconstitutional.

At one point in the hearing, Frost asked the legislators’ attorneys why some public safety workers were “cherry picked” to retain their collective bargaining rights while others were not.

The plaintiffs include the Abbotsford Education Association, the Beaver Dam Education Association, and BDEA member Matt Ziebarth.

If successful, the lawsuit would restore collective bargaining rights for education employees and other public employees. Through collective bargaining, educators are empowered as professionals to have input on teaching conditions, career compensation and educational practices. It is a process through which both parties sit down to talk about and come to agreement on issues that impact students, public education and employees.

Throughout this winter and spring, WEAC members, leaders and staff have worked together in a series of Fair Pay Now workshops to maximize the advantages of collective action and union organizing within and in spite of the state’s current bargaining laws. The success that some WEAC local unions have had with negotiations despite the legal obstacles provides a glimpse of what could happen every year and throughout the state if bargaining rights were fully restored.

When educators negotiate openly and equitably with employers in areas such as school safety, pay, predictable salary schedules, healthcare, and other subjects, students benefit. 

WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen said, “We are the educators who are there every day for students, the correctional officers who keep communities safe and the essential workers who make sure our communities run smoothly. Wisconsin is better when all employees have a say in our workplaces, whether about class sizes in our schools, safety on the job, hours or any other number of areas. The current law that discriminates against some workers while upholding the same rights for others is unconstitutional.”