Judge Blocks Wisconsin Law Curbing Unions

MADISON, Wis. (CBS) — A Wisconsin judge has temporarily blocked the new law restricting unions’ collective bargaining.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi blocked Gov. Scott Walker’s law that ended collective bargaining for most public employees, CBS News reported.

Sumi issued the order at the request of District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat. He filed a lawsuit contending that a legislative committee that broke a stalemate over the issue met without the 24-hour notice required by Wisconsin’s open meetings law.

The state’s 14 Senate Democrats had left to hide out in Illinois, thus preventing the quorum required for the state Senate to vote on bills involving spending money. The legislation curbing unions had been part of Walker’s budget proposal.

After a few weeks, the Republicans took all the spending measures out of the legislation, but kept in the provision to restrict collective bargaining rights for state employees. The Senate passed the bill a short time later without the Democrats.

The state Assembly passed the bill soon afterward, and Walker signed it into law.

Meanwhile, the Republican senators placed their Democratic colleagues in contempt, and warned that police might be sent to return them forcibly to Madison.

The senators returned on their own after the bill passed. But state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said the 14 Democrats remained in contempt, and thus while they could attend hearings, listen and speak, their votes will not count.

Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse said earlier this week that Democrats will remain in contempt until they attend a session. None is scheduled this week.

The new law forbids most government workers from collectively bargaining for wage increases beyond the rate of inflation. It also requires public workers to pay more toward their pensions and double their health insurance contribution, a combination equivalent to an 8 percent pay cut for the average worker.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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