With a five-to-two ruling today by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Governor Scott Walker won a major battle against the long-entrenched unions in his state. After a knock-out fight against a stubborn Democratic minority in the state assembly, during which assembly members pulled the ultimate media stunt and fled the state in protest, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Walker’s union law.
The 2011 law, which led to massive pro-union protests and a failed recall attempt, reached the state’s highest court after being upheld in appeals court twice. According to the opinion:
“No matter the limitations or ‘burdens’ a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation,” Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority.
Several public unions had contested the law, which curbs the power of public unions and forces workers to pay more for their own insurance. Walker hailed the ruling as a win for taxpayers in a statement:
In a two-sentence statement Walker issued Thursday, he praised the ruling and claimed the law has saved taxpayers more than $3 billion — mostly attributable to schools and local governments saving more money because of the higher contributions.
Disappointed but unsurprised, the legal counsel for the unions said Walker’s anti-union attempts had nevertheless failed:
Attorney Lester Pines, who represented the teachers union, said the decision was not unexpected given the conservative makeup of the court and critical comments the justices made during oral arguments.
“The governor’s desire to destroy the public employee unions has failed,” Pines said. “We’ll just see new approaches to dealing with employers by the unions. Those will become evident as we go forward.”
This is a major victory for Scott Walker, who is a rising star in the Republican Party. After defeating the recall effort in 2012, Walker’s stature shot up and he became the a model of conservative reform for other Republican governors across the country. With this win, rumors of Walker’s potential run in 2016 will likely regain steam.