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Wisconsin IUOE Locals Sue Walker for Free-Speech Violations

March 6, 2018

By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel

MILWAUKEE, Wisc.—Two Wisconsin International Union of Operating Engineers locals filed a lawsuit in federal court Feb. 23 arguing that the limits on collective bargaining imposed by Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 law violate their First Amendment rights. Local 139 and Local 420 contend that if collective bargaining is political activity, as the Supreme Court is likely to rule in the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case this spring, then 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which prohibits government workers from bargaining over any issue other than wages, is a “content-based restriction” that violates their rights to free speech. “Prior to the enactment of Act 10,” the suit says, “both unions routinely negotiated contracts which included a variety of benefits and protections such as health issuance, pensions, seniority rights, and protection against unjust termination. After Act 10, none of those subjects can be negotiated.” The two locals, which have about 11,000 members, also allege that Act 10’s recertification requirements and ban on fair-share fees infringe on their rights to freedom of association, an argument the state Supreme Court rejected in 2014. IUOE Local 150, which represents about 3,000 Illinois public-sector workers, filed a similar suit in a Chicago federal court Feb. 22. Read more

March 6, 2018

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