FORWARD LOOKOUT: Protesters are Responsible for Striking Down Anti-Union Bill

May 27, 2011
Kyle Szarzynski

With Judge Sumi’s ruling striking down Walker’s collective bargaining law, it’s worthwhile to recall just how it came to be that the Republicans ended up ramming through this bill. Failing to provide 24 hours notice, the legislative committee responsible for amending the measure broke state law. As we all know, this illegality was part of a broader pattern of behavior during the month-long upheaval at the Capitol in February and March.

“The court must consider the potential damage to public trust and confidence in government if the Legislature is not held to the same rules of transparency that it has created for other governmental bodies,” Sumi wrote. “Our form of government depends on citizens’ trust and confidence in the process by which our elected officials make laws, at all levels of government.”

The chaotic, incoherent and at times illegal actions pursued by the legislature during that turbulent time were the direct result of the pressure the ruling party felt from the mass protests. This includes the violation of the open records law. Feeling the rapidly changing momentum, Republicans knew that time was running out and so scrambled to pass the most controversial part of the bill. They are now paying for their skirting of the democratic process.

Part of this pressure stemmed from the impending defections of Republican senators, many of whom were understandably going wobbly as thousands upon thousands of people gathered outside their workplace. Conventional wisdom is now that the Republican leadership pursued this avenue because they knew that they probably wouldn’t have the votes if they waited much longer in their game of chicken with the exiled Democrats.

Now, I don’t think the attack on collective bargaining has much of passing the legislature again – again, thanks to the changing tide, a shift for which the protesters are singularly responsible.

While Sumi’s ruling may or may not be upheld by the Supreme Court, I think it’s worthwhile to reflect here that protests, especially ones of the magnitude we recently witnessed in Wisconsin, do matter. The momentum in this state is now with public workers and unions and it seems this incipient movement has produced its first tangible result.