On Friday, Wisconsin Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled that Governor Scott Kevin Walker’s collective bargaining reforms violate both the state and U.S. Constitution. Gov. Walker signed the anti-union bill in to law in March 2011 and took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most workers.
Colorlines.com’s Editorial Director Kai Wright pointed out last year that much of efforts to curtail collective bargaining in Wisconsin were aimed at public workers, who are mostly black.
But as governors and columnists have painted pictures of overpaid, underworked public employee in recent weeks, I have also seen the faint outline of familiar caricatures—welfare queens, Cadillacs in the projects, Mexican freeloaders. It’s hard to escape the fact that, in the states and localities with the biggest budget crunches (New Jersey, California, New York…) public employees are uniquely black.
That’s an anecdotal observation on my part, but Steven Pitts at UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education is amid a study of black employment in the public sector. He shared some preliminary data with Colorlines that suggests these jobs are in fact significantly relevant to black America. Pitts’ data is thus far national, meaning it includes the public sector in largely white states (in the Plains and New England, for instance).
The proposal was introduced shortly after Walker took office in February last year and it was rushed to his desk the following month. Lindsay Beyerstein reported the details for Colorlines in March 2011:
In a shocking move, Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate convened in the Capitol on Wednesday night to pass a union-busting bill without a quorum. The bill passed the State Assembly on Thursday afternoon, and Gov. Scott Walker signed it into law this morning. The Democratic state senators have returned from exile. Now, activists are shifting their attention to recall campaigns, court challenges, and even a general strike.
It is unclear whether the law will be suspended immediately.
We’ll bring you more analysis soon.