State labor panel won't stop union restrictions
MADISON — Wisconsin labor relations officials refused to stop enforcing provisions of Gov. Scott Walker's contentious public union restrictions against local government unions Monday, brushing aside allegations they're violating a court order.
Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission Chairman James R. Scott said the panel is working to set up hundreds of union certification elections as prescribed in the restrictions and hasn't defied any order. Union attorneys vowed to file a court motion on Tuesday asking a judge to hold the panel in contempt.
The Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 passed a Walker proposal that stripped almost all public employees on every level of nearly all their union rights. The plan also requires unions to hold annual elections to avoid decertification.
A federal judge in Madison and a federal appeals court have upheld the in separate lawsuits. But Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas ruled last year that the restrictions were unconstitutional as applied to two unions representing Madison teachers and Milwaukee public workers.
It's unclear whether the ruling applies to local government unions across Wisconsin, though. WERC, the body that oversees labor relations with municipal public employees, has been preparing to hold annual certification elections for more than 400 unions in November regardless.
The Madison teachers and Milwaukee workers unions asked Colas for an injunction blocking WERC from holding the elections. Colas issued a ruling last week saying his decision applies across the board but stopped short of issuing an injunction, creating more confusion.
Attorneys for six unions that weren't involved in the Madison-Milwaukee lawsuit, including the state's largest teachers union, sent WERC a letter on Friday warning the commission that continuing to prepare for the elections violates Colas' order. If the panel didn't stop its work by Monday the attorneys promised to seek an order holding it in contempt of court.