Wisconsin judge halts anti-worker law

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A Wisconsin judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the implementation of the bill that strips many public employees of their voice on the job. The bill has elicited huge protests in the Badger State, including another massive rally over the weekend.

Citing a violation of the state’s open meeting law, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi Friday issued the order, which blocks implementation of the law signed by Governor Scott Walker March 11.

Sumi ruled that the bill was pushed through in an illegal manner. Conference Committee meetings must be called with an advanced notice of 24 hours unless there is an emergency. The Conference Committee in which the bill was passed was called with less than two hours notice. No emergency could be proven.

“Judge Sumi confirmed today what we knew all along – that the bill stripping hundreds of thousands of hard working Wisconsinites of their voice on the job was rammed through illegally in the dark of the night,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

“Today justice prevailed,” explained Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. “In Wisconsin and in America, we have a democratic process for passing legislation. Judge Sumi has ruled that Scott Walker’s underhanded attempts to harm Wisconsin’s middle class will not stand.”

“State employees believe that nobody is above the law. We are gratified to see some of our so-called ‘leaders’ finally held accountable for their illegal actions. They may think they can get away with ignoring the vast majority of Wisconsin citizens by attacking worker freedoms, but they simply cannot continue ignoring the law if we want to continue calling our state a democracy,” said Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24.

The legislation strips teachers, state employees and many public employees of their right to collectively bargain – a right guaranteed in Wisconsin law for more than half a century. Walker included the anti-union measure in his “budget repair” bill, but Republican lawmakers were forced to vote on the issue separately when Senate Democrats left the state, depriving the Senate of the necessary quorum for voting on financial matters.

The Republicans rushed the bill through, prompting protests by Democratic lawmakers who said adequate notice was not given.

Republicans plan to appeal Judge Sumi’s decision.

“We fully expect an appeals court will find that the Legislature followed the law perfectly and likely find that today’s ruling was a significant overreach,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and his brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, said in a statement. “We highly doubt a Dane County judge has the authority to tell the Legislature how to carry out its constitutional duty.”

Judge Sumi was appointed by Republican Governor Tommy Thompson.