The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining law, arguing it was destructive to its union by creating divisions among its employees.
As Act 10 divided the union’s employees into different categories in terms of what they could bargain for, WLEA is seeking to restore collective bargaining rights for all its employees.
Before Act 10, all members of the union, such as the state patrol and inspectors, UW Police, Capitol Police and members of the Department of Transportation, could all collectively bargain through WLEA. After the law passed, only the state patrol and inspectors could collectively bargain on issues other than wage increases.
In its statement, WLEA said the collective bargaining law was “especially destructive” to the union since it divided its union. The statement noted during the 2011 Capitol protests, University of Wisconsin and Capitol Police worked alongside state troopers doing the same jobs, despite all of them knowing Walker had only “selected [the troopers] for special treatment.”
“[The law] fractured the union and the solidarity of its members, undermining their ability to join together and advocate for the best conditions to keep Wisconsin roads and communities safe,” the statement said. “Differing treatment by state agencies toward all hard-working state employees without valid reason and the loss of rights for some of its members led the WLEA to try to regain those rights and equal treatment for all its members and other state employees.”
Act 10 limited collective bargaining for many Wisconsin public employees to only wage increases, although those could only be negotiated as high as the inflation rate. In September, a Dane County judge ruled the law unconstitutional, although his ruling only applied to municipal and school district workers. The Department of Justice is already appealing that ruling.
Dana Brueck, spokesperson for the DOJ, said in an email to The Badger Herald the department is looking through this newest lawsuit.
“We are reviewing the complaint,” Brueck said. “We believe Act 10 to be constitutional, and that we’ll ultimately prevail.”
Rep. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, said the Act 10 reforms were necessary to balance the budget and should be kept. If the state were to return all collective bargaining rights to everybody, she said it would be an “absolute nightmare,” as it would bring back a deficit in the state’s budget.
Bernier said Act 10 allows employers the ability to reward employees who are doing an exceptional job. She gave an example from her time as county clerk, when she wanted to compensate one of her deputies who had gone above expectations, but because the deputy was in a union, Bernier could not compensate her.
This, along with the savings the state’s budget has seen, are among the positive effects of Act 10, Bernier said, adding that people need to look deeper at how Act 10 actually works.
“Many people think that because of Act 10 and the measure taken on collective bargaining, the world will come to an end,” Bernier said. “That is not a rational thought.”