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Wisconsin’s Union Law Upheld by 7th U.S. Circuit

On Friday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago found a controversial union law of Wisconsin to be constitutional and rejected claims that the law violated constitutional rights of union members. The law severely reduces the powers of unions in public-sector. Seven large public-sector unions of Wisconsin, including the Wisconsin Education Association Council, had sued the constitutionality of the law.

The law, which had been enacted by Wisconsin’s Republican dominated legislature is part of a group of measures meant to close the state budget deficit. The law prevented general employees from collective bargaining on most issues other than base wages, and also barred employers from automatically deducting union dues from paychecks.

In a statement issued by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, it’s president Mary Bell said, “Wisconsin educators are extremely disappointed with the appeals court ruling” and that the law was “a ploy to eliminate workers’ rights to have a voice through their union.”

The appeals court also reversed part of a March 2012 ruling by U.S. District Judge William Conley, made in the matter. Conley had ruled to void provisions that banned automatic dues deduction and also provided for stricter annual recertification of unions.

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Wisconsin is still appealing another decision by Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas, who had declared the law unconstitutional last September.

The law has also been heavily criticized as it compelled most state employees to pay higher amounts of health insurance and pension deductions, while at the same time reducing pay raises.

The Wisconsin governor said in a statement that the decision was a victory for taxpayers and the law was needed to close the multi-billion dollar state budget deficit.

The case is Wisconsin Education Association Council et al v. Walker et al, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 12-1854, 12-2011 and 12-2058.

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