Walker administration battling to keep Wisconsin union law in force

Wisconsin Republicans are battling in court to keep enforcing the controversial law that ended collective bargaining in the state, after a local judge threw a curveball by declaring sections of the law "null and void" -- in a move Gov. Scott Walker suggested was purely partisan.

The Walker administration and the plaintiffs in the case are now at a standoff until the courts can clarify.

Madison Teachers Inc., which brought the suit, claimed over the weekend that unless and until an appeals judge weighs in, "significant sections" of the law are not in effect, "restoring MTI's right to collectively bargain" with its local school district for pay and benefits.

But Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, is seeking court permission to keep enforcing the law while his office appeals.

"We believe that Act 10 is constitutional in all respects and will be appealing this decision," he said in a statement. "We also will be seeking a stay of Friday's decision pending appeal in order to allow the law to continue in effect as it has for more than a year while the appellate courts address the legal issues."

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The judicial ruling comes after state lawmakers endured a wave of recall elections, with Democrats and union supporters trying to punish Republicans over the policy. The highest-ranking of those targets -- Walker himself -- survived the recall push in June.

With Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas posing the latest challenge to his signature policy achievement, Walker indicated politics was at play again.

"The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5th.  Now, they are ready to move on," Walker said, in reference to his recall election victory. "Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County 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."

The judge who overturned the law was appointed to the bench by Walker's predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.

In his 27-page ruling, Colas said the law violates the state and federal constitutions. He wrote that it is "undisputed that there is no constitutional right to collective bargaining." However, Colas argued that the state was stepping on other rights in the course of rolling back collective bargaining -- namely, "the rights of free speech and association."

He wrote that sections "single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association."

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

The ruling throws into question changes that have been made in pay, benefits and other work conditions for city, county and school district workers. The law only allowed for collective bargaining on wage increases no greater than the rate of inflation; all other issues, including workplace safety, vacation and health benefits could no longer be bargained for.

The governor's appeal is likely to end up before the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.