The Wisconsin Supreme Court on July 31 upheld Gov. Scott Walker's law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers.
The passage of the measure in 2011 — known as Act 10 — sparked massive protests at the Capitol and led to a recall election, which Walker survived. The law prohibits public employee unions from collectively bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases based on inflation.
The protests have continued regularly, with sing-alongs at the Capitol and demonstrations around the state, along with the legal challenges.
The state's highest court released its 5-2 ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of the law on July 31. Justice Michael Gableman wrote the majority opinion: "Collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not a constitutional obligation," he wrote.
Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley were the two dissenters.
The case was brought by the teachers union in Madison and a union representing public workers in Milwaukee. The labor groups argued that the law violated workers' constitutional rights to free assembly and equal protection.
Early on July 31, Walker's office released a short statement under the headline, "Governor Scott Walker's reforms upheld in all Supreme Court cases."
Regarding the court's ruling on Act. 10, the governor said, "Act 10 has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 billion. Today’s ruling is a victory for those hard-working taxpayers."
Meanwhile, Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews called the ruling morally bankrupt.
He said the court's decision "reversed 50-plus years of legislation, which enabled public employers and employee groups to work together to make workplaces not only more productive but safer."
Referring to the dissent by Bradley and joined by Abrahamson, Matthews said the court reframed, dodged and twisted the issue to reach its verdict. "Governor Walker said he would divide and conquer public employees and he did with Act 10. Now his conservative supporters on the Supreme Court have said what he did in acting to divide and conquer is constitutional."
A federal appeals court has twice ruled that the measure is constitutional.
The state's highest court also has upheld the 2011 voter ID law and the law creating the domestic partner registry.