By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A group of unions threatened Friday to try to hold Wisconsin employment officials in contempt of court if they don’t stop enforcing parts of Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining restrictions.
Attorneys for six unions sent a letter to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission insisting a Madison judge’s ruling last year that found Walker’s public union restrictions unconstitutional applies statewide. They said if WERC doesn’t stop the re-certification elections by the end of the day Monday they will seek to hold the commission in contempt of court.
WERC lead attorney Peter Davis declined to comment. The commission has scheduled a meeting for Monday morning to discuss the warning.
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed a Walker proposal in 2011 that stripped almost all public employees on every level of nearly all their union rights and required unions to hold annual elections to avoid decertification.
Two unions representing Madison teachers and Milwaukee public workers filed a lawsuit in 2011 challenging the restrictions. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas ruled last year the law is unconstitutional as it applies to those unions.
Confusion has ensued over whether that ruling applies to municipal workers statewide. The state Supreme Court has agreed to take the case, but it’s unclear when the court might rule. Adding to the uncertainty is a pair of federal rulings in separate lawsuits declaring the law constitutional.
WERC has continued to prepare for 400 unions’ certification elections this November. Attorneys for the Madison and Milwaukee unions asked Colas to issue an injunction blocking WERC from enforcing any parts of the law.
Colas on Tuesday released a ruling saying his decision applies to everyone but refused to issue the injunction, saying the Madison and Milwaukee unions haven’t been harmed because WERC isn’t enforcing the law on them.
The ruling has only added to the uncertainty. Attorneys for the unions that sent the letter to WERC on Friday insisted the Tuesday ruling clarifies the commission is enforcing an unconstitutional law.
“By having done so and continuing to do so, you have been and are in contempt of the Court’s orders,” the letter said.