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Wisconsin high court upholds anti-union law

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Wisconsin collective bargaining law upheld
  • NEW: Law's opponents pledge to take fight to six state senators in recall vote
  • State Supreme Court sets aside permanent injunction against the law
  • Gov. Scott Walker says ruling allows Wisconsin "to move forward together"
  • Law requires public workers to cover more of their benefits, limits collective bargaining

(CNN) -- Wisconsin's top court Tuesday reinstated a contentious law that curbs the collective bargaining rights of most state employees. Opponents of the law said the fight will now be taken to those who supported it.

The state's Supreme Court, by a 4-3 vote, set aside a ruling by a lower court judge who had placed a permanent injunction against the law. The court ruled the state Legislature did not violate the state's constitution when it passed the legislation.

The ruling was a major victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who pushed for the bill over a chorus of angry teachers, union members and others who said it was an attack on worker rights.

"The Supreme Court's ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again," Walker said in a statement.

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO criticized the ruling.

Wiscconsin's anti-union law upheld

"The inability of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to separate partisan politics from the well-being of Wisconsinites is the latest indication that citizens do not have a voice in this state," it said in a statement. "And the only way for Wisconsinites to repair that voice is to take back the Senate this summer, stop Walker's unbridled assault on working people and take back the statehouse in 2012."

Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO, told CNN recall elections next month targeting six senators is proof citizens are angry about the "anti-worker legislation."

Protesters returned to the state Capitol in Madison on Tuesday, some wearing recall T-shirts.

The law, which sharply curbs the collective bargaining rights of most state employees, sparked an extremely heated, high-stakes political fight. Republicans insist that the measure is necessary to control skyrocketing public employee benefit costs and close a $137 million budget shortfall. Democrats argue that it is little more than an attempt to gut public-sector labor unions, one of their core constituencies.

The public brouhaha all but shut down the Wisconsin state Legislature for weeks. It also drew protesters by the tens of thousands, among them union supporters and public employees, who called the proposed measure an attack on workers. A group of Democratic lawmakers left the state rather than allow a vote quorum.

Eventually, the law was passed and signed by Walker in March.

iReport: Opponents to law stage protest

Walker's top aide told CNN Madison affiliate WISC that the governor was examining the court's 61-page ruling and determining when the law will be implemented.

Republican legislative leaders said the high court's ruling proved they passed the so-called "budget repair" bill correctly.

Under the Wisconsin law, all public workers except police and firefighters would be required to cover more of their retirement plan contributions and health care premiums.

Raises would be tied to the rate of inflation, unless state voters approve an exception. Unions would be required to hold a new certification vote every year and would no longer be allowed to collect dues from workers' paychecks.

The state Supreme Court overturned a ruling by Judge Maryann Sumi, who said GOP legislators failed to provide sufficient public notice before passing the measure this year.