By Stephen C. Webster on October 21, 2013

Collective bargaining for some public employees lives again in Wisconsin thanks to a Monday ruling by Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas.

Judge Colas, who struck down portions of Act 10 last year, ruled that Walker and his appointees on the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) are in contempt of court for continuing to enforce Act 10 against municipal and school district unions across the state.

"We were pleased to see that the commissioners were finally taken to task for enforcing an unconstitutional law," Christina Brey, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, told The Progressive. "All along they've been thumbing their nose at the court's ruling and today's ruling that they were in contempt of court was a wake-up call for the commission, that they are not above the law."

"We're telling our members to continue watching it and go ahead as they have been, just to be sure they continue to organize in their local schools," she added. "This is what we teach our students every day. There is a system of checks and balances. This is basic civics and it cannot be ignored."

The WERC argued that Colas' ruling in 2012 only applied to the two unions that brought the original complaint, instead of all the public employee unions statewide. Colas disagreed on Monday and issued an injunction barring the WERC from holding union re-certification elections, which it planned to carry out on November 1.

"I think the contempt is nothing more than an attempt to elude the application of a judgment of the court that the commission knew full well applied," Colas told The Wisconsin State Journal. In his ruling, Judge Colas left no wiggle room for the state, insisting that Act 10 may not be enforced "against anyone," according to The Journal Sentinel.

"The commission is going to comply with the judge's ruling, but we'll be seeking review of that ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court," WERC's chief legal counsel Peter G. Davis told The Progressive. As for the ruling of contempt, Davis said simply: "That's a judgement that the state supreme court is going to have to make."

The ruling spares over 400 Wisconsin school district and municipal worker unions from re-certification elections and restores their power to bargain on behalf of members. State workers remain unaffected, and the next stop for the case is the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which is expected to take up oral arguments on Act 10 starting November 11.

Photo: Flickr user Richard Hurd, creative commons licensed.

Updated with additional context.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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