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Home / Government / DA files lawsuit challenging union law (UPDATE)

DA files lawsuit challenging union law (UPDATE)

Associated Press

Gov. Scott Walker talks during a news conference Wednesday at the state Capitol in Madison. His budget repair bill is facing legal challenges. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal/John Hart)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican lawmakers violated Wisconsin’s open meetings law when they amended a contentious plan that bars most public employees from collective bargaining, a Madison prosecutor alleged in a lawsuit Wednesday.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne’s legal challenge is the second from a county official since Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill into law Friday. Ozanne filed his lawsuit after Democrats in the Wisconsin

Assembly alleged Republican leaders didn’t give enough public notice that a committee planned to meet to amend the bill.

Ozanne, a Democrat, wants a judge to void the law and issue an emergency order blocking the secretary of state from publishing the law, which would prevent it from taking effect. He also wants each Republican leader fined $300.

Judge Maryann Sumi was scheduled to hold a hearing on the lawsuit Thursday morning.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk filed a lawsuit nearly identical to Ozanne’s the same day Walker signed the bill, which garnered nationwide attention and drew tens of thousands of protesters to the Wisconsin Capitol for weeks.

Walker spokesman Chris Schrimpf said Republicans did nothing wrong. Andrew Welhouse, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, added: “We are completely confidant we followed the law through the entire process.”

The new law limits most public workers’ collective bargaining rights to wages only, so they can no longer negotiate work conditions, vacation time or grievance processes.

Walker and Republicans insist the move will help the state balance its current $137 million deficit and a $3.6 billion hole in the upcoming two-year budget. Walker also has said the law will give local governments the flexibility to absorb deep cuts in state aid.

Democrats consider it a direct attempt to cripple unions, one of their strongest campaign allies. Union workers see the law as a personal attack.

Demonstrations against the bill jammed the Capitol and its grounds for three straight weeks. Senate Democrats left the state for Illinois to block a vote in the Senate.

But Republicans broke the impasse on March 9, when they convened a committee in the Senate parlor to strip what they said were the fiscal provisions from the bill. That negated the need for a full quorum, allowing Republican senators to vote without the minority Democrats.

Assembly Republicans passed the bill the next day and Walker signed it about 24 hours later, leaving Democrats no way to stop the measure except in court.

Assembly Democrats filed a complaint alleging the open meetings violations with Ozanne the day after the committee convened.

Falk’s suit argues the bill still contained spending provisions after the committee was done revising it. That means a full quorum was necessary to vote in the Senate. She also argues that the Republicans convened the committee hearing on less than two hours’ notice, even though the state’s open meeting law demands at least 24 hours.

Ozanne’s lawsuit alleges the same open meeting violation. He also claims that the Senate parlor was too small to be considered reasonably accessible and police had restricted public access to the state Capitol building to limit protesters.

Senate Clerk Rob Marchant has said the meeting was legally called under rules of the Senate that have no time requirement, but Ozanne argues that open meeting statutes still applied.

Falk asked for an emergency order blocking publication of the law on March 11, but Dane County Circuit Judge Amy R. Smith denied the request. The case then shifted to Sumi, who has decided to hold a hearing on Friday in that case.

Falk’s attorneys hope Sumi will decide to halt publication on a non-emergency basis then, but the judge has warned them that the decision may not come during Friday’s proceedings and she plans to be out of her office all next week.

Ozanne’s lawsuit gives Democrats another chance to win an emergency injunction on Thursday.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


  1. “Democrats consider it a direct attempt to cripple unions, one of their strongest campaign allies. Union workers see the law as a personal attack.”

    …And the rest of us consider NOT doing this as a direct attempt to cripple the states economy. And, who is our strongest campaign ally? Our only ally are the individuals who miraculously overcame the strength of that union backed politicial machine and elected people who are actually trying to show some fiscal restraint. As for ‘personal attacks’…this isn’t personal, it’s business. Who among us would conduct our business or personal finances in the same manner as government has for the past many years? Those of you who do, have been or soon will be going through a process in which you may want to call Peter Francis Geracy. No, this isn’t a personal attack, it’s finally an attempt to put the majority of the peoples needs in this state, ahead of the ‘needs’ of this all too long, ‘protected class’ of citizens. The fact of the matter is, this doesn’t even do that…but it’s a good start.

  2. Wait Supporters of the Bill…
    It will eventually trickle down to your wallet ..In your private lives

  3. TEA
    your party as been hijacked by The Republican Establishment, they saw your grassroots power quickly befriended you, not to help carry your banner but to use you to further there Corporate and big money agenda — yes the ones that keep the Republican establishment in power. They used fear and false patriotism to turn Working people against working people. If Republicans were so concerned about deficits and balancing the budgets Why would they continue giving tax breaks to the big corporations and the supper rich. The middle class workers have seen there wages stagnate and go down while there productivity has more than doubled over the last 25 years. Yet in the same time, the rich have become the supper rich. Your anger is misguided, when workers stop fighting workers and realize that only by banding together they can recreate the middle class that has made America the envy of the world and stop the this downward spiral of wages and benefits for all workers. Maybe this sums it all up best — a quote by American financier Jay Gould After hiring strikebreakers, he said “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half.”

  4. Rich….it already has. Where have you been?
    You think the unions haven’t hijacked the Democrat party?
    You think the unions care at all about your individual jobs vs. maintaining their power?
    You think the unions don’t use fear, and false patriotism?
    You think tax breaks for corporations equates to the elimination of the middle class?
    You think by attacking the rich, tearing them down, that will build up the middle class?
    My friend, you’re doing a lot of thinking, without putting much thought into it.
    The reality is, an employee is paid what the employer is willing to pay. It’s that simple. Unions hate that fundamental law of economics, but the laws of economics demand that that ultimately be the case. I don’t like the law of gravity, but if I slip on ice I still fall on my a**. If I don’t feel that’s fair compensation, it is my right to go elsewhere.
    If anyone is angry, it’s your side. I’m not angry at my boss, I don’t hate him for being rich, or getting “supper” rich. You see, I want my boss, my company owner to be swimming in money, I want him to have so much money, he doesn’t know what to do with it…That’s called job security, and yes, that does equate to higher pay and benefits, which I as an individual can negotiate based upon my value to the company (another concept the unions hate). When this happens, that is the free market at work, competition, supply and demand. The mentality of having to “band together” to fight against your employer is very destructive.
    Maybe this sums it all up best — a quote by Abe Lincoln; You can’t build up the poor, by tearing down the rich.

  5. Joe,

    It’s very simple, price labor too high like the UAW did and then you find yourself not making automobiles, but making toilets instead (Kohler).

    Globalization has put pressure on prices and thus wages. Sorry, fact of life. People shop for the best price they can find on things they want to buy. If they didn’t, Walmart would not exist. Why should corporations not do the same? As other countries have improved productivity, organized labor here has priced themselves out of being competitive.

    Globalization is causing the standards of living around the world to begin to equalize. Since we were at the top, there is no place to go but down a step. We still have it FAR better than the bulk of the world.

    The “Average Joe” in the US has it better than 90% of the people in the world, yet they complain about those that have it better than 99%. There will always be people that make more, have more. I have worked hard and improved my station in life, but am not “rich”. I am greatful for what I have and do not envy those that have more. No one “owes” me anything, nor do I “owe” anyone.

  6. Joe,

    Read this and tax away. It will not solve the budget issues:

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