A temporary restraining order has been issued by US judge Maryann Sumi in Wisconsin, which is seen as a set back to Republican Governor Scott Walker because it prevents the state’s new collective bargaining law from taking effect.
If it is published later this month, the law would affect public-sector unions’ bargaining rights.
Tens of thousands of people gathered for weeks at the state capital to protest against proposals that will limit the power of trade unions. (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk)
Last month 14 state Democrats fled to Illinois in order deprive the state legislature of a quorum. But last week Republicans used a procedural move in order to allow them to pass the measure in committee instead, and shortly afterwards Mr Walker signed the law.
The state’s justice department argued that by posting a memo on a bulletin board two hours beforehand, it had given enough notice of the committee meeting.
But a lawsuit was filed by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne alleging that a legislative committee which broke a stalemate that had kept the bill in limbo for weeks met without the 24-hour notice required by Wisconsin’s open meetings law.
Initially the law was to be published on 25 March, but it is blocked by the new restraining order.
“This legislation is still working through the legal process,”said Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Mr Walker.
Mr Werwie remains confident that the law would still be published in the near future.
On the other hand, Democrats were hopeful Republicans in the state would come back to the negotiating table.
“I would hope the Republicans would take this as an opportunity to sit down with Democrats and negotiate a proposal we could all get behind,” said Democratic Senator Jon Erpenbach.
Mr Walker says the measures are needed to tackle the state’s $3.6bn budget gap over the next two years.
The proposal intends to get the deficit under control in part by restricting public employees’ collective bargaining rights and by requiring them to contribute more to their pensions and healthcare.
State unions have said that as long as they retain collective bargaining rights, they will agree to Mr Walker’s proposed changes to their benefits, which would represent an 8% pay cut.
If published, the law would concern rubbish collectors, teachers, nurses, prison guards and other public workers.