CAP TIMES: Law enforcement union sues Wisconsin over collective bargaining law that creates 2 classes of workers

November 14, 2012
Ed Treleven
news photo

A Wisconsin law enforcement union sued the state Tuesday over the state's collective bargaining law, alleging that the portions of the law pertaining to teachers and municipal workers that were found unconstitutional by a Dane County judge are also unconstitutional for state workers.

The lawsuit, filed in Dane County Circuit Court by the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association (WLEA), two police officers and a field agent for the state Division of Motor Vehicles, alleges that portions of Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining law violates state workers' rights to speech, association, petition and advocacy under the state constitution.

The lawsuit is similar to one in which Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled in September that the collective bargaining law violated the constitutional rights of teachers and municipal workers. The new suit was assigned to Circuit Judge John Markson.

In addition to constitutional violations, Colas ruled that the law created separate classes of public workers who are treated differently and unequally.

The law curbs collective bargaining for most public workers and most issues except base wages, among other provisions.

According to the lawsuit, prior to the law taking effect, WLEA included state troopers and inspectors, along with Capitol and UW police officers and detectives, DMV field agents and police communication officers.

Only state troopers and inspectors retained their union rights as part of a new unit carved out called "public safety" employees, the union said in a news release.

The law, the union said, "fractured the union and the solidarity of its members, undermining their ability to join together and advocate for the best conditions to keep Wisconsin roads and communities safe."

During daily demonstrations at the Capitol in early 2011, the union said, Capitol police, UW police and state troopers worked "side by side, day after day, performing the same duties, yet, they were aware that only troopers were selected for special treatment by Walker and the Legislature."

The lawsuit also notes that during the 2010 election, WLEA did not endorse a candidate for governor, while the Wisconsin Troopers Association endorsed Walker.

Along with WLEA, the plaintiffs in the case are James Brooks of Lodi, a Capitol police officer; Jill Buzick of Milwaukee, a UW-Milwaukee officer; and Kathryn Rozmarynoski, a DMV field agent lead. Defendants include Walker; James Scott, chairman of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission; and WERC members Judith Neumann and Rodney Pasch.

State Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck said the lawsuit was being reviewed. "We believe Act 10 is constitutional and that we'll ultimately prevail," she said.