On CNN yesterday, former Secretary of Labor and University of California at Berkeley professor Robert Reich said the decision plays into the hands of Republicans who have long tried to dismantle both public and private sector unions. Reich says conservatives are using the fiscal woes facing many states as the perfect excuse to move forward on their anti-unions goal now. Check out his argument in the video after the jump.
The decision sparked more protests at the state's capitol building, much like the ones that took place in February and March, which included many Chicagoans who trekked to the state to show their support for teachers, public service workers and other union members. The state's Supreme Court ruled against Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi's decision to side with a lawsuit arguing that Republicans broke an open meetings law when they gathered for a pow-wow that moved the anti-union legislation forward without posting proper public notice. The Republicans held the meeting during a time when 14 Democratic senators were out of the state, having fled to Illinois to prevent a vote on the bill. Click here to check out an interview Progress Illinois did with one of those Democratic Wisconsin senators.
Gov. Walker issued a one sentence statement in reaction to yesterday's decision by the state's high court, saying "The Supreme Court's ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again."
It might be hard to get the state to move forward together though, as several lawsuits are expected to be filed in response to the ruling. The first lawsuit was filed earlier today by a coalition of unions arguing that the law is in violation of the U.S. constitution because it takes away union rights to bargain collectively and discriminates against classes of public employees. Legal challenges to the case couldn't be filed against the anti-collective bargaining law until a decision was made by the state's high court. Now that the law has been upheld, it appears that it will fully take effect in August when funds start being withheld from union workers, but state officials say money will not be taken from the paychecks retroactively. The law calls for employees to pay more into their health care and pension plans than before.
Although the law, according to Walker, is meant to help bridge a $3.6 million state budget gap, the decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court also revealed a major problem with the state's highest court. In a blistering dissent by the state's Supreme Court Chief Justice, Shirley Abrahamson, she alleged that her colleagues came to their decision based on "their own version of facts without evidence. They should not engage in this disinformation." She went on to say that the concurring opinion by Republican Justice David Prosser was "long on rhetoric and long on story-telling that appears to have a partisan slant." This reveals some serious cracks in the state's legal system, as explained by Rick Ungar's piece in Forbes today.
However, the decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court revealed something far more shocking than the ruling which went against the supporters of collective bargaining. It revealed, by way of written opinion, a now ‘out in the open’ battle between the members of the court wherein the minority opinion bluntly and directly accused the majority of fudging the facts to reach the decision they had already determined they wanted to reach. The minority opinion further alleged that the majority was driven by political motives rather that the desire to deliver a fair and judicious opinion.
In the world of the law, this is beyond huge. This is gargantuan.
This is so "gargantuan" because the chief justice's words bring into question just how seriously the Wisconsin Supreme Court's rulings will be taken if the court's chief justice felt compelled to accuse fellow justices of immensely unethical behavior when deciding on the law. Unger points out that after such allegations by Abrahamson, "every ruling of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, so long as it is composed of its current Justices, will result in precedents that are instantly suspect due to the charges that have been levied by members of the court."
Another after effect of Walker's anti-union law is the July 12 recall vote facing six of the state's 19 Republican senators. Democrats say three of the Republicans will need to be recalled in order to bring a fairer state government back to Wisconsin. Check out John Nichols' piece in The Nation for a better look at the now unchecked and unbalanced the state government is in Wisconsin.