MacIver News Service | September 19, 2017
By M.D. Kittle
[Madison, Wis...] Another court has upheld Wisconsin's Right to Work law, stinging organized labor with yet another legal defeat.
The Wisconsin 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled to reverse, remand and dismiss a lower court ruling striking down the state's 2015 law prohibiting unions from taking dues from workers who do not want to be union members.
AFL-CIO's Wisconsin chapter, Machinists Local Lodge 1061 and United Steelworkers District 2 filed the lawsuit, arguing Wisconsin's law protecting non-union workers from compulsory dues was unconstitutional.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge C. William Foust agreed, striking down the law in April 2016 and asserting that it's not fair that unions should have to provide the same services to workers who opt out of union membership.
The appeals court cited previous court decisions declaring right-to-work laws like the one in Wisconsin constitutional. In its decision, the three-judge appeals panel wrote that Wisconsin's law simply does not allow unions from "conditioning a person's employment on the payment of monies designed to cover the costs of performing that duty of fair representation."
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said, going back to 1947, no right-to-work law in the U.S. has been struck down for being unconstitutional or because it was an "illegal taking," as the Wisconsin unions have claimed. Mix's nonprofit filed a friend-of-the court brief in support of Wisconsin's law.
"It's good for Wisconsin workers, and it's good for Wisconsin, that desperate attempts by union officials to continue their forced dues collections are going to end," Mix added.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this summer upheld Wisconsin's law.
The state appeals court decision follows on the heels of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals rejection and withering criticism of a lower court's preliminary injunction against that state's right-to-work law.
West Virginia Chief Justice Allen H. Loughry II in the majority opinion wrote that the circuit court's ruling was "imprudent and "profoundly legally incorrect."
"The respondents have demonstrated no likelihood of success and their failure was abetted by the circuit court's use of an overruled, effectively meaningless standard for issuance of a preliminary injunction," the justice wrote in the 3-1 decision. "This monumental failure of legal reasoning was compounded by extraordinary and baseless delay occasioned by the circuit court."
The labor groups that sued West Virginia, like the Wisconsin unions, maintain that the right-to-work law violates West Virginia's constitutional prohibition on the taking of property "without just compensation or due process."
Mix said the courts repeatedly have ruled unions cannot claim a taking of property that doesn't belong to them in the first place.
Gov. Scott Walker, who with his signature in March of 2015 made Wisconsin the nation's 25th right-to-work state, applauded the appeals court's decision.
"The purchase of any service should be voluntary and not coerced. Wisconsin's right-to-work law protects freedom, not special interests," Walker said in a statement. "I applaud the court in affirming the constitutional right of all Wisconsin workers to be free to choose whether they want to join a union or financially support a union."
Twenty-eight states have passed right-to-work laws.
Missouri's law remains in legal limbo, although Mix expects court action in that union-challenged case sometime next week.
The three Wisconsin labor unions could next appeal their case to the state Supreme Court. Success before the 5-2 conservative majority is considered highly unlikely. Indiana's Supreme Court in 2014 upheld the state's right-to-work law, which is similar to Wisconsin's.
Enough is enough, right-to-work proponents say.
"Union officials ought to stop spending their members' money and taxpayer funds to litigate what is a futile effort to overturn Wisconsin's right-to-work law," Mix said.