Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order Friday that blocked Wisconsin Republicans’ anti-collective bargaining law from taking effect. Wisconsin political insiders see this as a major setback for the potential future of the law – and a step closer to a recall election for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, reports the Associated Press. For working class Wisconsinites, the restraining order represents a small victory in the battle for workers’ rights.
Calling out Republicans’ collective bargaining gamesmanship
Gov. Walker has maintained that eliminating the collective bargaining rights of the working class is a necessary step to make up for Wisconsin’s $137 million budget shortfall. Not only would state workers lose their right to collectively bargain for fair pay, health benefits, overtime pay and safe working conditions, they would be ceding the dignity that comes with taking firm hold of their economic well-being.
The stay of the Wisconsin anti-collective bargaining law was requested by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat. Ozanne had filed a lawsuit contending that the Republican committee that voted to pass the bill into law had not given the minimum 24-hour notice required by the state’s open meetings law. The Republicans contended that because the 14 Democratic senators had already fled the state to eliminate the possibility of an earlier voting quorum on the collective bargaining bill, the Republican quick vote was a proper case of turnabout.
Tens of thousands of protesters who stormed the Wisconsin State Capitol did not agree. Neither did Judge Sumi, based solely upon the open meetings law, rather than the merit of the legislation. A new court order could still put the anti-collective bargaining law back on the menu, however.
Collective bargaining and workers’ rights
Regulating suitable working conditions is what collective bargaining is all about. Without the ability to fight for wages, hours, proper training, benefits, safety provisions and avenues through which to file grievances, employees do not have the power to form a legally binding contract with an employer. As corporate profit tends to be paramount for the employer in a class war, extra pay and benefits to employees fall farther down the list. Businesses seek to strike a balance that would keep workers productive while maintaining a health profit margin. Labor unions and collective bargaining agreements help protect employees and keep employers honest.