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October 28, 2021


Wisconsin Union Busting Bill Voided By Judge

Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi

By Patrick DePula

In what is seen as a win for public labor Unions, Governor Scott Walker’s controversial Anti-Collective Bargaining law was struck down.

Thursday Morning, Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi issued a permanent injunction against the bill, effectively killing it until the Supreme Court is able to act. Sumi’s 33 page decision said there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Republicans who control the Legislature violated the state’s open meetings laws. This referred to GOP actions at March 9th committee meeting where the measure was passed without providing proper notice to the public.  Also at that time, the Capitol building was locked down tightly keeping many members of the public away.

“This case is the exemplar of values protected by the Open Meetings Law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government, and respect for the rule of law,” Sumi wrote. “It is not the court’s business to determine whether 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 is good public policy or bad public policy; that is the business of the Legislature. It is this court’s responsibility, however, to apply the rule of law to the facts before it.”

“This is what we were looking for” said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat who sued to block the law after Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) filed a complaint saying that Republicans had not given proper notice in convening a conference committee of lawmakers from both houses to approve Gov. Walker’s budget-repair bill.

In a press release, Mary Bell, President of the Wisconsin Education Association said  “Wisconsin public school employees applaud the ruling today that strikes down this backward legislation. The motives behind the collective bargaining bill were clearly political. Governor Scott Walker has already admitted the bill was never intended to be about ‘budget repair’ but instead a way to bust public employee unions.”

“Scott Walker and the Republicans broke the law that night,” explained Stephanie Bloomingdale, Wisconsin State AFL‐CIO. “This is a democracy, not a dictatorship, and Judge Sumi’s decision today makes it final that the union busting bill was passed illegally and will not stand.”

Reaction to the budget repair bill that seeks to eliminate all collective bargaining rights from public unions- except police and firefighters- has included over 100 days of mass protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol and around the state. At times, over 150 thousand people have massed outside and inside the building in opposition to this measure.

Unions Make Us Strong

The most recent mass protest was May 14th.

It is expected that the Supreme Court will hear arguments on June 6th to decide whether it will take up the case. GOP leaders have always had the option of noticing a hearing properly, and voting on the legislation again.  Many democrats, activists and union supporters believe that the lock-step political will that existed at the time of the measure’s original passing no longer exists.  This is why Republicans continue to spend thousands of dollars litigating the law, rather than calling for a re-vote.

Republican leaders and the Governor’s office have yet to comment on this decision.



23 Responses to “Wisconsin Union Busting Bill Voided By Judge”
  1. NickWI says:

    Well Alaska Pi I can answer that. the legislators cannot be sued or arrested while the legislature is in session(absent serious crimes like murder or treason). However in this case the refusal to appear before the court leaves the judge no choice but to rule for the plantiffs(ie those who sued to stop the bill from taking effect

    • Alaska Pi says:

      Thank you NickWI.
      I read the judge’s ruling but the whole thing about the Legs threw me because I didn’t realize the case involved specific people as well as the Leg as a whole.
      Probably should go hunt around and read more about the actual case filed . Am I understanding correctly that the named Legs are immune from being called out on what they have done in session while session is still going?
      Sounds like WI did itself proud with the way it extended open meetings law to the Leg.
      Go WI!

      • NickWI says:

        yes they can claim legislative immunity however it is not absolute. It only exists while the legislature is in session, although it covers a couple weeks after the session ends I believe(for travel purposes) The ruling was on the method in which it was passed, ie not allowing 24 hours notice(its 2 hours in emergency situations, but even that was not followed). They could simply put it up to another vote, but I think the reason why Walker isn’t doing that is because the votes likely are not there this time around., and given that there could be as many as 9 senators facing recall (6 Republican, 3 Dem) a vote on this would likely seal the Republicans fate in regard to those recalls (they’ll all lose in all likelihood) the Democrats need to gain a net of 3 seats to retake the state Senate , there are 33 members so a tie is impossible without a vacancy. Walker himself is eligible for recall in january, and the only question is how many signatures will they gather over the 540K minimum? I’ll say there will be close to 1 million signatures gathered. Walkers approval has dropped to the low 40s, largely because hes been such an odious smuck about this. we have never recalled a governor before, but frankly I think Walker will be the first.

        • Agreed Nick. At first, I honestly thought the possibility of recalling Walker was a bit of a pipe dream. As the months wear on, it looks like a given. As long as the organization is there, it will happen.

          • yukonbushgrma says:

            Sure do wish I were still in WI to help with the recalls!

            You CAN get Walker recalled — I just know it. You’re Badgers, remember?

  2. Alaska Pi says:

    Patrick- If you are still here…
    How is it that the Legs included ( but now severed from main issue ) are claiming legislative immunity?

    • Ah, it has to do with rules in the legislature Alaska Pi. If the legislature is in session, they have immunity from prosecution unless it happens to be a felony charge.

  3. nDjinn says:

    It’s a bit of a sigh of relief. I thought this business was as a whole the kind of government action when taken by a country “we” don’t like is condemned by the international community.

  4. nDjinn says:

    It’s a bit of a sigh of relief. I thought this business was as a whole the kind of government action when taken by a country “we” don’t like is condemned by the international community.

  5. mike from iowa says:

    At least with the courts involved,it has slowed down rethuglican’s plan to completely take over the government and gives everyone a chance to think through what they want for Wisconsin. Thank you for staying in the middle of this war and I truly hope common sense and decency prevail.

    • Problem is, common sense and decency seem to have left the Wisconsin Republican Party.

      • Mo says:

        Yet more reasons why voting for the Republican team has become immoral.

        Any candidate they field has millions of haters behind them, and this should not be ignored by rationalizing “I vote for the candidate, not the party.” That’s like voting for a beauty queen whose retainers are goodfellas.

  6. Patrick DePula says:

    My guess is that the Walker administration doesn’t want this to come to a vote again. With the recalls looming, in most cases, it will hurt them.

    • yukonbushgrma says:

      Thanks for replying, Patrick — what you say makes perfect sense. Now, let’s just all hope those recalls come out well!

  7. benlomond2 says:

    people in Wisconsin need to keep their resolve firm until the upcoming elections, and put true representatives in their legislature. Don’t make the assumption that someone else will vote the right people in.

  8. Waay Out West says:

    Walker is saying that Judge Sumi doesn’t have the power or the jurisdiction to make any ruling. He is wrong.

    She did not rule on the law, she ruled on the way the law was passed.

    She is a fine jurist, her ruling and points of fact are very clear and I do not think there are any grounds for appeal or reversal.

    The law will have to be re-passed with due notice one way or another.

    I don’t think the Republicans anticipated the storm they provoked. They thought they had a mandate to do what ever they pleased, however they pleased.

    The numbers on the recall petitions together with the number of successful recalls, ie 6 out of 8 Republicans targeted, coupled with the fact that they had to pay an outside entity to even get the signatures they did on the 3 out of 8 Democrats targeted – those Republican Senators aren’t going to want to rock the boat much before the special elections.

  9. Zyxomma says:

    Thanks for posting, Patrick.

  10. yukonbushgrma says:

    Oh, another thing —

    Now that Prosser won, isn’t the Supreme Court properly stacked to uphold Walker’s law? If they do get it through the legislature again, it looks pretty certain the SC won’t stand in Walker’s way.

    Hate to be a sad-sack, but …….

  11. yukonbushgrma says:

    Patrick, big thanks for posting this. It IS a big win, for sure. Open Meetings laws are nothing to fool around with!

    Being a former Wisconsinite, I’ve followed at least some of this story. I’m still a bit puzzled by why the GOPers didn’t just try to pass the law again with adequate notice. They could have done that anytime after the WI 14 came back. Were they afraid of more ramped-up protests? or backlash? or the recalls?

    It still seems to me that even now they’d probably have a chance of passing it. Why haven’t they tried? (I don’t think their chances are going to improve anytime soon ……)

  12. John says:

    This is great news. I only wish Alaska’s Open Meetings Act would apply to our state legislature.

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