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Nearly 8 Years Later, Big Legal Win for AFSCME Wisconsin

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After a nearly eight-year legal battle, AFSCME Wisconsin members are celebrating a resounding  victory that protects the pension rights of hundreds of AFSCME-represented municipal workers.

Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court delivered a ruling that allows the workers to take early retirement benefits, which Milwaukee County officials insisted the workers weren’t entitled to

In the wake of Act 10, a Gov. Scott Walker-era law that limited collective bargaining for Wisconsin’s municipal employees, Milwaukee County sought to exclude AFSCME members from a special pension provision called Rule 75.

To avoid paying $6.8 million in pension benefits, the county unsuccessfully argued that a pension-denying ordinance applied to workers “not represented by a union,” though the text of the ordinance stated that it applied to those “not covered by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.” 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court applied the language in the ordinance’s text in its ruling, handing a substantial win to AFSCME Wisconsin members and, more importantly, extending pension benefits to hundreds of workers.

“Because we must apply the plain meaning of the ordinance’s text rather than rewrite it to reflect what the county may have intended, we reject the county’s request,” the court’s majority wrote.

Patrick Wycoff, executive director of AFSCME Council 32, said, “Our success at the Wisconsin Supreme Court shows the strength of our AFSCME spirit.”

“AFSCME members are dedicated to ensuring our communities are safe, healthy, and whole and we work hard for the right to retire with peace of mind,” he said. “This ruling reveals what we can accomplish together, despite the tremendous efforts to divide us, when we stay focused on improving the lives of workers and our communities.”