Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds Act 10 union law, "It will affect all of us"

MADISON (WITI) -- An historic day in the Wisconsin Supreme Court as decisions on three major cases are released. Virtually everyone in the state is affected -- and the biggest decision handed down relates to Governor Scott Walker's controversial Act 10.

The long legal battle over Act 10 is over. The law has been upheld in its entirety by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 5-2 decision.

It was the law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. It produced massive protests, political upheaval and a spate of legal challenges.

On Thursday, it came to an end with the Supreme Court's final word on Act 10.

The lawsuit was brought by Madison Teachers Incorporated and a union representing Milwaukee city employees. Those unions argued that Act 10 violated their constitutional rights to freedom of association and equal protection under the law -- but the court rejected those arguments.

Writing for the majority, Justice Michael Gabelman said: "Collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation."

Former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske says the decision has broad implications.

"It will affect all of us in the state. It's a big development in the history of the development of law in Wisconsin," Geske said.

The only dissenting votes were from the court's two liberal stalwarts: Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley.

"Act 10 will continue to be the law of the land going forward. The state's highest court has affirmed that.  We've proven there's been about $3 billion of savings for the hardworking taxpayers of the state," Governor Scott Walker said.

Act 10 is done as a legal issue on the state level, but it remains a highly-charged campaign issue, and Governor Walker quickly pivoted to the political implications.

"Act 10 works. Our reforms work. It is a clear contrast between what we would do -- affirm that going forward -- and if we elected somebody new who would chip away with that," Governor Walker said.

His likely opponent, Democratic candidate Mary Burke has not said she would repeal Act 10 outright, but says she would work to restore collective bargaining rights to the state's public workers.

"I support the right to collectively bargain. I don't believe that that stands in the way that we have efficient, effective and accountable government," Burke said.

Governor Walker argues that without the collective bargaining reforms, the $3 billion saved would evaporate.

"That's not true. I have said I think it's only fair top have contributions to pensions and to health care, but we also have to make sure we attract and keep people in our public sector," Burke said.

Governor Walker won the legal victory on Thursday, but he quickly acknowledged that he needs a political victory in November to ensure that his reforms stay firmly in place.

So Act 10, and its wide-ranging impact will likely remain at the forefront of public discussion for the remainder of the campaign.

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