July 4, 2024

WEAC, Union Partners Announce Victory in Collective Bargaining Lawsuit

A Dane County judge has ruled that provisions of Act 10 are unconstitutional, denying a motion to dismiss our case challenging the law.

“Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to our shared goal,” said WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen. “WEAC and labor partners won’t stop until we achieve free, fair and full collective bargaining rights to negotiate with our employers.”

WEAC and other labor unions representing public employees filed the lawsuit in November 2023, citing the dire situation in schools and other workplaces where low pay, staffing shortages and poor working conditions caused by the law are causing staffing shortages. WEAC was in the courtroom in May when Dane County Circuit Judge Jacob Frost considered a motion from the republican majority in the state Legislature to dismiss the case, which Judge Frost denied today.

Our lawsuit argues the 2011 law violates equal protection guarantees in the state Constitution by dividing public employees into two classes: “general” and “public safety” employees. Public safety employees are exempt from the collective bargaining limitations imposed on “general” public employees.

“Rational basis review provides a simple premise. Can you explain a law’s differing treatment of different groups in a way that makes sense and supports a public policy? If not, the different treatment is irrational and violates the right to equal protection of the laws. Because nobody could provide this Court an explanation that reasonably showed why municipal police and fire and State Troopers are considered public safety employees, but Capitol Police, UW Police and conservation wardens, who have the same authority and do the same work, are not,” Frost wrote in his ruling.

“Thus, Capitol Police, UW Police, and conservation wardens are treated unequally with no rational basis for that difference. Act 10 therefore violates their rights to equal protection under the law and I declare those provisions of the Act relating to collective bargaining modifications unconstitutional and void.”

WEAC President Wirtz-Olsen welcomed the ruling and praised the plaintiffs representing our union, Abbotsford Education Association, the Beaver Dam Education Association and BDEA member Matt Ziebarth.

“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,” Wirtz-Olsen said.