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Walker labor law overturned in county court; impact unclear

Nancy Sweet

A Dane County Circuit Court judge may have overturned several of the provisions in Wisconsin's Act 10/31 that prohibits most collective bargaining rights of public employees, but the long-term impact of the decision is unclear to those on all sides of the issue.

According to Hudson School District Director of Personnel Nancy Sweet, the lower court decision found five provisions in the law unconstitutional including:

--the prohibition of the contribution of "fair share (union) dues";

--the prohibition of voluntarily withholding or deducting union dues from an employee's paycheck;

--prohibiting employers from bargaining with unions on anything other than base pay including work conditions and benefits;

--requiring unions to be certified by members annually; and

--requiring a referendum for any pay increase above the Consumer Price Index.

Sweet said the judge upheld the provision in the law that says that a school board is the final arbiter in a contract dispute. The new law does not allow for outside arbitration, something Hudson teachers and the district have used in the past.

Hudson teachers and union representatives Brian Huser and Tess Rizzardi sent the following statement after being contacted by the Star-Observer for comment on the court decision.

"The teachers association believes the judge made the correct decision in his ruling. We do, however, realize that this issue is far from over. A final decision could be a long way off. Our focus at this point is

our students and teaching. We remain cautiously optimistic."

Sweet said because the decision came down in a county court, it is unclear what impact the decision has statewide. Wisconsin's attorney general said he will seek a stay on the decision to keep it in force until it has been appealed to a higher court.

Sweet said that Peter Davis of the Wisconsin Employee Relations Commission expects that the court battles over Act 10/32 could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, Sweet says the Hudson School District and teachers are continuing to work together effectively. Since the law passed, Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten put together the Teacher Advisory Council that includes more than a dozen teachers representing all of the schools in the district. Sweet said teachers volunteered to be part of the group and that it is designed to give teachers "a way to be heard and have a voice" in district decision-making.

"We have worked very well with the union and our teachers through some very significant changes. The leadership of Brian (Huser) and Tess (Rizzardi) have been exceptional. The uncertainty we all face has been difficult but good relations and communications will see us through," said Sweet.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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