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Wisconsin unions are advocating to reverse a 2011 law that effectively eliminated almost all collective bargaining

Protestors (Via Shane Johnson/Shutterstock)

Public workers’ and teachers’ unions argued on Tuesday that their lawsuit challenging a Wisconsin law, which sparked massive protests and put the state at the center of a national debate over union rights, should proceed. They made this argument despite efforts by the Republican-controlled Legislature to have the case dismissed.

This lawsuit marks the first challenge to the law known as Act 10 since Wisconsin’s Supreme Court shifted to liberal control last year.

During the proceedings, Dane County Circuit Judge Jacob Frost questioned whether there were alternative remedies available to address alleged issues with the law without completely striking it down. He reserved judgment and indicated he would issue a written order regarding the Legislature’s motion to dismiss the case.

The unions’ attorney contended that the 2011 law should be invalidated because it unfairly exempts firefighters and other public safety workers, which they argue is unconstitutional.

In response, attorneys representing the Legislature and state agencies argued that these exemptions are lawful, have been upheld by previous court decisions, and therefore, the case should be dismissed.

Labor Union (Via Shane Johnson/Shutterstock)

Judge Frost raised concerns about why certain groups of employees were granted special treatment under the law, allowing some public safety workers to retain their collective bargaining rights while denying this to others.

“Isn’t that an equal protection problem?” he questioned the Legislature’s attorney.

The attorney defended the law by explaining that exemptions were based on concerns about public safety, such as the potential risks if certain groups like law enforcement were unable to fulfill their duties due to strikes or other disruptions.

He emphasized that such distinctions among employee classes are legally justified and warned against the court delving too deeply into the specific reasons for each exemption, cautioning against judicial overreach into legislative matters.

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