June 15, 2011
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision and Unions’ Federal Suit
By a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned a Dane County Circuit Court’s ruling that the Legislature violated the state’s open meetings law. Today, a coalition of unions filed a federal lawsuit charging that the Wisconsin “budget repair” bill is unconstitutional.
WASHINGTON—Sadly, last night, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled with breakneck speed—on the same day it decided to take the case—that the state Legislature is not subject to the open meetings law. In effect, the Supreme Court said the majority can make any backroom deal it wants.
It’s hard to understand how the Wisconsin Supreme Court could accept and decide a case of this magnitude—one that guts 50 years of collective bargaining—in a single day. In her dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote about the 4-3 majority: "They inappropriately use this court's original jurisdiction, make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties' arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891.”
The speed with which the majority acted yesterday was not what former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren meant when he used the phrase “all deliberate speed.”
We are disappointed but not surprised by the Supreme Court ruling and will redouble our efforts to restore a fair and democratic process to Wisconsin. The hundreds of thousands of people who have demonstrated their disagreement with the governor’s and Legislature’s attempts to silence the voice of the public deserve no less.
Toward that end, our affiliates and other unions have filed suit in federal court today because we believe the budget repair bill violates the U.S. Constitution by stripping away basic rights to organize, bargain and associate for most public employees in Wisconsin. The suit was filed in federal court, as it is clear the state's Supreme Court, which has acted in a similarly partisan and political manner as Gov. Walker and the Republican-dominated Legislature, will not be a fair forum.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.