Tag Archives: anti-union

Wisconsin Senate, Walker go after collective bargaining agreements

The state Senate has passed a Republican bill that would limit union influence on bids for public projects. The bill, which passed 19-13 on party lines this week, prohibits state and local governments from requiring contractors bidding on their projects to enter into collective bargaining agreements called project labor agreements.

Sen. Leah Vukmir, who sponsored the measure, says it gives non-union firms the chance to bid on more projects.

But Democrats say it’s the latest iteration of Republican attacks on unions.

Both sides acknowledged few places in Wisconsin currently use project labor agreements, which can establish rules controlling work on a project upfront, such as setting work hours or requiring workers to join a union.

But union leaders and Democrats say PLAs can keep especially complex projects on schedule and ensure safe working conditions. They say local governments should get to decide whether to require PLAs or not.

“For a party that likes to talk about local control, this flies in its face,” Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling told Republicans. She said it invites non-union, out-of-state companies to steal work from Wisconsin companies.

Vukmir, who is from Brookfield, said her intent is to level the playing field, not tilt it. “What this piece of legislation does is establish neutrality, it establishes fairness,” Vukmir said.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a news release following the vote that the measure helps guarantee taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently.

Republicans rejected amendments from Democratic senators that would have required subcontractors to prioritize hiring veterans and give preference to minority and female-owned businesses.

More than 20 other states have passed similar legislation. The bill’s language is a variation of a sample policy provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit that pushes free market legislation.

The Assembly is expected to vote on the bill in March. If both the Senate and Assembly pass it, it would then go to Gov. Scott Walker who can sign it into law.

Walker’s budget proposal released Wednesday included prohibiting units of government from requiring PLAs on bids for public projects.


Walker says White House interested in Wisconsin anti-union law

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said this week that he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence about how the White House can implement on a federal level parts of the Republican governor’s contentious measure that all-but eliminated collective bargaining for public sector unions in the state.

Pence, when he was governor of Indiana, frequently sparred with public employee unions and only awarded pay increases to state workers who received positive performance reviews.

And President Donald Trump has talked about wanting to weaken collective bargaining protections for federal workers.

Walker’s claim to conservative fame is he severely restricted union power in the state.

The Wisconsin law passed in 2011 barred collective bargaining over working conditions or pay increases greater than inflation, for most public workers while requiring them to pay more for health care and pension benefits.

The fight over its passage led to protests as large as 100,000 people and Walker’s recall election in 2012, which he won. Walker was the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall attempt.

Now the governor is talking with those in the Trump administration about “how they may take bits and pieces of what we did” with the union law and civil service reform and “apply it at the national level.”

“It’s something the vice president has brought up before,” Walker told reporters following a speech in Wauwatosa.

The AP reports that union membership in Wisconsin has dropped 40 percent since the law passed. In 2016, 8 percent of Wisconsin’s public and private-sector workers were in a union, below the national average of 10.7 percent.

“I don’t think that the model that Scott Walker has put forward is a model for success,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. “That’s the model that the Koch Brothers have tried to spread everywhere.”

Charles and his brother David Koch operate one of the most powerful conservative groups in the nation and have supported efforts across the country to curtail union rights.

Trumka said collective bargaining is the best way to ensure workers get fair wages.

“If you’re going to get workers a raise you have to give them the right to collective bargaining unless you’re willing to impose a straightjacketed minimum wage on everybody,” Trumka said.


Walker Watch: Where does Scott Walker stand on the issues

Where two-term Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stands on various issues that will be debated in the Republican presidential campaign, a race he’s joining on July 13.


As early as 2002, Walker supported creating a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally. Now he doesn’t. He attributed the shift to his conversations with border-state governors and voters nationwide. “My view has changed. I’m flat out saying it,” Walker told Fox News in March. “Candidates can say that. Sometimes they don’t.” He’s open to granting legal status short of citizenship to many people in the country illegally. But he’s also questioned whether the current policy on legal immigration makes economic sense, suggesting he might side with those who believe high numbers of immigrants – legal or not – suppress wages.


It’s a very weak link in his presidential resume. To address that, he has traveled overseas four times this year. His visit to Israel in May was tightly controlled, with no public appearances. He stumbled rhetorically at times during a more public London tour earlier. Oddly, in an otherwise well-received speech to conservatives in February, he said his experience taking on thousands of protesters in his state helped prepare him to confront terrorists abroad. Walker speaks hawkishly of pre-emptive strikes to prevent what he says are certain future attacks on U.S., although specifics are scarce.


Walker, the son of a Baptist minister, opposes abortion rights, including in cases of rape and incest. As governor, he signed into law a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before having an abortion. He’s also set to sign a bill into law that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Walker also opposes same-sex marriage, voting for a state constitutional amendment in 2006 that banned it. Walker called the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states a “grave mistake.” Walker opposed the death penalty until 2006, when he switched positions, saying he believed that if DNA evidence proved the guilt of a person, the death penalty was justified. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty. The National Rifle Association gives his gun-rights record a 100 percent rating. In June, Walker signed a bill removing a 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases. Walker also legalized the carrying of concealed weapons in 2011.


Walker supports Wisconsin’s first-in-the-nation school voucher program, under which taxpayers pay for students to attend private rather than public schools. Walker extended the program statewide after its start in Milwaukee and Racine, and this year proposed eliminating enrollment caps. Walker cut money to K-12 public schools by $1.2 billion in his first budget, the largest reduction in state history. He called for cutting about $127 million from schools in the first year of his most recent budget, but the Republican Legislature rejected that. Walker’s position has varied on Common Core academic standards. He never explicitly advocated for them, but in his first state budget in 2011 he called for statewide tests that were tied to the standards. By the middle of 2013, Walker was calling for a halt to further implementation of the standards, and in July 2014 he called for a repeal, even though it’s up to local school districts whether to adopt them. His budget this year prohibits the state superintendent from forcing local school districts to adopt the standards and calls for new standardized tests.


Walker proposed, just six weeks after taking office in 2011, that public employees except for police and firefighters pay more for pension and health care benefits, and only be allowed to bargain collectively over base wage increases no greater than inflation. Outrage over passage of that law led to Walker’s 2012 recall election, which he won. This year, Walker signed a right-to-work bill into law, after saying during his re-election campaign that the issue would not come up because it was a distraction. Right-to-work laws prohibit unions from requiring workers to join or pay dues. Walker this year also proposed eliminating tenure protections for University of Wisconsin faculty and staff from law as part of a broader proposal to make the university independent from state oversight and regulation. Walker has referred to that as the higher education version of the law he signed affecting state workers four years ago.


Walker has not made climate change a focus of his campaign, but he has spoken at the Heartland Institute, a group that denies man-made climate change. Walker also joined more than a dozen other coal-reliant states suing the Environmental Protection Agency to block the so-called Clean Power Plan, which would require states to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Walker has also signed the “no climate tax” pledge to oppose any legislation that would raise taxes to combat climate change.

Following the money behind ‘right-to-work’

With hearings and protests taking place on “right-to-work” legislation, the watchdog group One Wisconsin Now released research on the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, headed by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign co-chair. That research revealed “the stage has been set for Walker’s latest assault on Wisconsin’s middle class for his personal political benefit with a well-financed propaganda campaign utilizing a nationwide web of front groups.” 

“Once again we see the ‘Wisconsin Money Badger’ Michael Grebe and his Bradley Foundation paving the way for Gov. Walker’s right-wing, tea party agenda with a massive propaganda campaign,” said One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross. “This time it’s the wrong-for-Wisconsin right-to-work law that cuts wages and benefits not just for union members but all Wisconsin workers.” 

One Wisconsin Now, in a statement released on Feb. 23, said it reviewed federal tax records and found the Bradley Foundation handed out more than $8 million in 2012 and 2013, the latest years for which information available, to support the operations of about three dozen groups promoting “right-to-work” bills and “privatization policies that empower the wealthy and corporate CEOs at the expense of the middle class.”

The Bradley Foundation, with nearly half a billion dollars in assets, dispenses some $30 million to $40 million a year. The organization is among the largest right-wing funding foundations in the country.

Foundation-funded groups operating in Wisconsin, including the MacIver Institute, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, Media Trackers and the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation, took in excess of $2.9 million, according to One Wisconsin.

Additionally, the American Legislative Exchange Council and the State Policy Network took in more than $200,000 in 2011 and 2012 from the effort. Nearly $500,000 went to the anti-organized-labor Center for Union Facts and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund.

Bradley also gave $140,000 to the Koch brothers-aligned Americans for Prosperity Foundation that partnered with the MacIver Institute to run a multimillion dollar ad campaign that declared “it’s working,” in references to Walker’s jobs and economic policies.

In the Michigan effort to enact right-to-work legislation, the Bradley-funded Education Action Group and the Mackinac Foundation were active. The groups took in $230,000 over two years from the Bradley Foundation. One Wisconsin, in its analysis, said, “Michigan’s passage of the its right to work law is being used justify the GOP led effort to reduce wages, health care and education funding in Wisconsin.”

The Bradley Foundation also has funded a propaganda campaign in support of the privatization of public education and an effort at intimidating minority voters.

The watchdog group stated, “With Gov. Walker now auditioning for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, expect his talking points to mirror the Bradley Foundation’s, including their funding of a network of Islamophobic foreign policy advocates.”

Ross said, “This latest episode is another warning to the nation about what you get with Scott Walker, a person who is politics incarnate and willing to do or say anything to get elected with a campaign co-chair heading a right wing foundation spending hundreds of millions of dollars on propaganda to advance their agenda.”

Walker: Right to Work bill a distraction

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said this week that he hopes Republican leaders in the state Legislature do not focus on passing a so-called right-to-work bill.

Walker made the comments on Dec. 3, a day after Republican Rep. Chris Kapenga of Delafield said he planned to introduce right-to-work legislation during the upcoming session.

Walker did not say whether he would sign a possible bill, but reiterated that he is discouraging legislative leaders from taking up the issue.

He said it would be a distraction from priorities like balancing a budget, tax reform and other steps to help the state’s economy.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in July he didn’t intend to pursue the issue in 2015 but on Dec. 1 issued a statement saying he looked forward to discussing the benefits of becoming a right-to-work state.

In a statement earlier this week, in reference to a group lobbying for the bill, Wisconsin AFL-CIO president Phil Neuenfeldt said, “So-called Right to Work means fewer Wisconsin jobs, not more. Right to Work is a policy that attacks Wisconsin’s workers, our wages, our safety on the job and our middle class. Right to Work is nothing more than an attempt by corporate special interests to drive down wages and erode the middle class.

“The formation of this group is just another way for CEOs and multinational corporations to weaken unions and stack the deck even more in their favor, all at the expense of our middle class. It’s a power grab by the same people who ship our jobs overseas and offshore their profits to avoid paying taxes, shifting the burden to the rest of us — the same people who oppose raising the minimum wage and support privatizing Social Security.”

He said the Legislature should “focus on critical issues like creating good-paying jobs and reviving our sluggish economy.”

Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity building political machine

Over scrambled eggs and croquettes, Andres Malave gave a last-minute pep talk to about a dozen volunteers in a Cuban restaurant before they left to meet voters in Miami.

“Don’t just deliver a message,” he said before beginning his own 31/2-hour shift knocking on doors. “Try to get them engaged.”

It’s a strategy playing out in New England diners, Midwest truck stops and West Coast cafes: Conservative organizers train and send out thousands of volunteers holding an iPad and an interest in helping fellow activists shift America’s politics to the right.

They are the backbone of Americans for Prosperity, the flagship organization of the political network backed by industrialist billionaires Charles and David Koch. While the group’s spending in Senate races has attracted national attention, it’s these less noticed field efforts that could have greater impact and help reshape the Republican Party heading into the 2016 presidential election.

The organization has more than 500 paid workers in 35 states and has become one of the conservative movement’s best organized, most powerful outside groups. Building on the community-based approach President Barack Obama used successfully in 2008 and 2012, it now has a political footprint unmatched among GOP-affiliated operations and is racking up legislative victories.

The group scuttled efforts to raise taxes to build a downtown campus for the well-regarded zoo in Columbus, Ohio, and derailed plans in Florida’s Legislature to subsidize improvements to the Miami Dolphins’ football stadium. It helped fend off a recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wisconsin, and has helped pushed anti-union workplace laws.

It didn’t shy away from going after traditional allies, as was the case when Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., briefly considered expanding Medicaid, a core component of Obama’s health care law. Americans for Prosperity mobilized supporters, the Republican-led Legislature quickly rejected the idea and Scott dropped his proposal.

Tim Phillips, the group’s president, said Americans for Prosperity had helped usher in “a once-in-a-generation renaissance for economic freedom policies,” and was poised to keep financial issues prominent in 2016.

This fall, Americans for Prosperity is campaigning against a sales tax increase in South Carolina’s Greenville County, as well as trying to elect conservatives to office. Unlike what it has done for most of this year, the group now is engaging in explicitly political messages for the campaign’s final weeks.

Possible presidential contenders in the GOP have taken notice.

GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas spoke at the group’s annual summit in August. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., headlined the Koch brothers’ seminar for major conservative donors this year.

Americans for Prosperity sprung up in 2004 but has gained heft during the past two election cycles. Its budget has grown from less than $3 million in 2004 to more than $130 million for the 2012 election cycle.

In many places, the group has more trained and paid operatives than the traditional political parties have. Nowhere is this more obvious than Florida, where the group has 10 offices, its single largest field operation.

In the group’s Orlando, Florida, outpost, Phillips recently met with 15 volunteers who were wearing bright green T-shirts with Americans for Prosperity’s torch logo.

Using iPads, they had spent the morning asking voters to take an issues survey that included the federal health law, government spending and taxes. The information helps them develop messages and test which arguments resonate with voters.

“That doesn’t mean always knocking on the door and telling people ‘Obamacare’ is bad,” Phillips told the volunteers. “That’s important, but the goal is to bring some good and build relationships over the long term.”

That strategy has become central to the Koch network of organizations. This year, they are trying to help right-wing Republicans pick up the six seats they need to win control of the Senate — Americans for Prosperity spent $25 million on TV ads alone — but it is not what drives the organization.

“People say our biggest goal is a Republican Senate. Not true,” Phillips said. “Florida is our biggest imprint.” The state has been a critical battleground in the presidential contests of the 2000s.

As the Nov. 4 vote nears, it’s all about voter-to-voter contacts, relationships that could pay dividends in 2016 and beyond.

That means sending hundreds of staff and volunteers into neighborhoods, like the one in Miami packed with pastel homes with Spanish-tile roofs.

Malave, the group’s Hispanic outreach chief in Florida, spent more than three hours knocking on doors in the scorching sun on a recent Tuesday. He kept asking the questions and punching in the answers on his iPad so leaders at headquarters could figure out which messages were working.

Reaction from voters was mixed and answers came in a blend of English and Spanish. But, as Malave asked about the health law and government spending, he found a few potential recruits.

“I’m a registered Democrat,” one woman told Malave, “but with the situation going on, I’m in the middle.”

Malave recorded the answers and moved to the next house.

“This isn’t glamorous work,” Malave said, sweating through a polo shirt. “But you’ve got to go where the folks are. People aren’t going to come to you.”

Pussy Riot expresses solidarity with Wisconsin protesters

Members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot appear in a video showing their solidarity with Wisconsin progressives arrested in protests at the Capitol in Madison.

The video by the Voice Project highlights the Solidarity Singers’ campaign and calls on Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to drop charges against protesters.

Band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina appear near the end of the more than 6-minute video and say, “Solidarity with Wisconsin.” They also encourage the Solidarity Sing-A-Longs sparked by Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union push in 2011.

The video was released to mark three years of the struggle against the right-wing Walker administration.

Members of Pussy Riot were imprisoned in Russia for speaking out against oppression and the rule of President Vladimir Putin. Members of the band were whipped by a cossack while protesting at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

On the Web …



Wisconsin school voucher supporters spent $10 million in 10 years

A new report shows that supporters of the private school voucher program have spent $10 million over the past decade driving their agenda in Wisconsin.

The report released on April 15 by the government watchdog group the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says $5 million of that spending happened in the last election cycle.

Gov. Scott Walker got about half of that during his defeat of a recall effort in 2011.

Walker this year is proposing expanding the program beyond Milwaukee and Racine and increasing funding to raise the amount of the individual vouchers families receive to send their children to private school.

The report says spending by voucher supporters included about $7 million for outside electioneering activities, like negative mailings and television ads. About $2.8 million went toward individual campaign contributions.

Michigan Gov. signs anti-union bills despite protests

In a dizzyingly short time span, Republicans have converted Michigan from a seemingly impregnable fortress of organized labor into a right-to-work state, leaving outgunned Democrats and union activists with little recourse but to shake their fists and seek retribution at the ballot box.

The state House swiftly approved two bills reducing unions’ strength Dec. 11, one dealing with private-sector workers and the other with public employees, as thousands of furious protesters at the state Capitol roared in vain.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed the measures into law within hours, calling them “pro-worker and pro-Michigan.”

Workers deserve the right to decide for themselves whether union membership benefits them,” Snyder said. “Introducing freedom-to-work in Michigan will contribute to our state’s economic comeback while preserving the roles of unions and collective bargaining.”

House Speaker Jase Bolger exulted after the vote that Michigan’s future “has never been brighter,” while Democrats and union activists said workers had been doomed to ever-lower living standards. Lacking enough votes to block the measures or force a statewide referendum, opponents set their sights on the 2014 election.

“Passing these bills is an act of war on Michigan’s middle class, and I hope the governor and the Republican legislators are ready for the fight that is about to ensue,” said Gretchen Whitmer, the Senate Democratic leader.

As 1 of 24 states with right-to-work laws, Michigan will prohibit requiring nonunion employees to pay unions for negotiating contracts, representing them in grievances and other services. Supporters say the laws give workers freedom of association and promote job creation, while critics insist the real intent is to drain unions of funds need to bargain effectively.

Labor has suffered a series of setbacks in Rust Belt states since the 2010 election propelled tea party conservatives to power across much of the region. Even so, the ruthless efficiency with which Republicans prevailed on right-to-work was breathtaking in Michigan, birthplace of the United Auto Workers, where unions have long been political titans.

The seeds were planted two years ago with the election of Snyder, a former venture capitalist and CEO who pledged to make the state more business-friendly, and GOP supermajorities in the House and Senate. They have chipped away repeatedly at union power, even as Snyder insisted the big prize – right-to-work – was “not on my agenda.”

Fearing the governor wouldn’t be able to restrain his allies in the Legislature, labor waged a pre-emptive strike with a ballot initiative known as Proposal 2 that would have made right-to-work laws unconstitutional. It was soundly defeated in last month’s election, and Snyder said Dec. 11 the unions had miscalculated by bringing the issue to center stage.

“I don’t believe we would be standing here in this time frame if it hadn’t been for Proposal 2,” the governor said at a news conference after signing the bills. “After the election, there was an extreme escalation on right-to-work that was very divisive.”

After days of private talks with legislative and union leaders, Snyder threw his support behind the measures last week. Within hours, Senate Republicans had introduced and approved them without the usual committee hearings. After a mandatory five-day waiting period, the House did likewise Dec. 11.

It happened so quickly that opponents had little time to generate the massive resistance put forward in Indiana, where right-to-work was approved earlier this year, and Wisconsin during consideration of a 2011 law curtailing collective bargaining rights for most state employees. Those measures provoked weeks of intense debate, with Democrats boycotting sessions to delay action and tens of thousands of activists occupying statehouses.

Still, Michigan unions mustered thousands of protesters who massed in the Capitol’s hallways, rotunda and front lawn. Crowds formed before dawn on a chilly morning. Four oversized, inflatable toy rats bearing the names of Snyder and GOP legislative leaders were on display.

“They’re selfish. They’re greedy. They’re Republican,” said Susan Laurin, 60, of Saginaw, a secretary with the state Department of Transportation, wearing a hard hat like many fellow demonstrators.

Seventh-grade teacher Jack Johnson, of East Lansing, said the GOP’s goal was obvious: “You take away money from the unions and they can’t support the Democratic candidates, and the Republicans take over.”

“No justice, no peace!” protesters chanted, the chorus reaching a deafening din as the House prepared to vote. “Shame on you!” they shouted from the House gallery as the results were announced.

Republicans insisted the bills were given adequate consideration, as the issue had been debated across the state for years. Snyder said he saw no reason to delay signing the measures, especially with opponents still hoping to dissuade him.

“They can finish up, and they can go home because they know … making more comments on that is not going to change the outcome,” he said. “I view this as simply trying to get this issue behind us.”

Don’t count on it, state Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer retorted.

“If Gov. Snyder thinks that Michigan citizens will go home and forget about what happened in Lansing today, he is sorely mistaken,” state Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said. “Snyder has set the tone for the next two years, and this fight is not over.”

Snyder said he expects the law to be challenged in court but believes it will stand. Opponents also said they might seek recalls of some legislators.

Meanwhile, unions must adapt to a new reality.

The laws take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. Even then, workers bound by existing contracts won’t be able to stop paying union fees until those deals expire. But activists fear some will opt out at first opportunity.

“A lot of people like to freeload,” said Sharon McMullen, an employee of the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Wisconsin judge strikes down Walker’s anti-union law

A Wisconsin judge has struck down nearly all of the state law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

Walker’s administration immediately vowed to appeal the Sept. 14 ruling, while unions, which have vigorously fought the law, declared victory. But what the ruling meant for existing public contracts was murky: Unions claimed the ruling meant they could negotiate again, but Walker could seek to keep the law in effect while the legal drama plays out.

The law, a crowning achievement for Walker that made him a national conservative star, took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most workers and has been in effect for more than a year.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled that the law violates both the state and U.S. Constitution and is null and void.

In his 27-page ruling, the judge said sections of the law “single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions.”

Colas also said the law violates the equal protection clause by creating separate classes of workers who are treated differently and unequally.

The ruling applies to all local public workers affected by the law, including teachers and city and county government employees, but not those who work for the state. They were not a party to the lawsuit, which was brought by a Madison teachers union and a Milwaukee public workers union.

Walker issued a statement accusing the judge of being a “liberal activist” who “wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.”

Wisconsin Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck said DOJ believes the law is constitutional.

The ruling throws into question changes that have been made in pay, benefits and other work rules in place across the state for city, county and school district workers.

Walker’s law, passed in March 2011, only allowed for collective bargaining on wage increases no greater than the rate of inflation. All other issues, including workplace safety, vacation, health benefits, could no longer be bargained for.

The ruling means that local government and schools now must once again bargain over those issues, said Lester Pines, an attorney for Madison Teachers Inc. that brought the case.

“We’re back to where we were before the law was enacted,” he said.

Pines predicted the case would ultimately be resolved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“What’s going to happen in the interim is unknown,” he said.

The state Supreme Court in June 2011 ruled that the law was constitutional after it had been blocked by a different Dane County judge on a challenge over its passage being a violation of open meetings law.

Walker introduced the proposal in February 2011, six weeks after he took office. It resulted in a firestorm of opposition and led to huge protests at the state Capitol that lasted for weeks. All 14 Democratic state senators fled the state to Illinois for three weeks in an ultimately failed attempt to stop the law’s passage from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The law required public workers to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits at the same time it took away their ability to collectively bargain over those issues. Walker argued the changes were needed to help state and local governments save money at a time Wisconsin faced a $3 billion budget shortfall.

Anger over the law’s passage led to an effort to recall Walker from office. More than 930,000 signatures were collected triggering the June recall election. Walker won and became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall.

The lawsuit was among several filed against the law.

A coalition of unions filed a federal lawsuit in Madison in June 2011, arguing that the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause because it exempted firefighters and police officers. A federal just upheld most of the law in March, but the rulings are under appeal.

Another lawsuit was filed in July 2011 by two unions representing about 2,700 public workers in Madison and Dane County. They also challenged the law on equal protection grounds. The case is pending.

Democrats and unions were ecstatic with the recent ruling.

“As we have said from day one, Scott Walker’s attempt to silence the union men and women of Wisconsin’s public sector was an immoral, unjust and illegal power grab,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

The Democratic minority leader in the state Assembly called the ruling a huge victory for workers and free speech.

“This decision will help re-establish the balance between employees and their employers,” said Rep. Peter Barca.

Republican Rep. Robin Vos, a staunch supporter of the law and the presumptive next speaker of the Assembly, called the ruling an example of the “arrogance of the judiciary.”

“I’m confident it’s a single judge out of step with the mainstream,” Vos said. He said the law is working “and we’ll continue to implement it.”