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  • Court Strikes Down Wisconsin Anti-Union Right-To-Work Law
    Posted On: Apr 13, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, April 14, 2016

    Wisconsin’s so-called Right-To-Work law, which prevents unions from being able to negotiate contracts which require all workers to contribute to the union’s costs, was struck down Friday by Dane County Judge William Foust.  Three Wisconsin unions filed a lawsuit shortly after it was signed into law in 2015.  Alex Hoekstra is the Directing Business Representative of International Association of Machinists District 10:

    [Alex Hoekstra]: “It was great news…finally some justice against some of the attacks this administration has put on labor and all working families here in the state.”

    Stephanie Bloomingdale is Vice-President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, who joined the Machinists and United Steelworkers District 2 in the lawsuit:

    [Stephanie Bloomingdale]: “We’ve always known that bill was unjust, and now it’s been proven to be unconstitutional in the state of Wisconsin as well.  It’s no longer illegal to talk about a fair share in the workplace.  And so, individual bargaining units and their members can talk with their employers and negotiate contracts that include fair-share provisions in the contract, which means that everyone has to pay their fair share of union representation to have the benefits of the contract.”

    Right-to-Work legislation primarily prevents unions from being able to collect so-called “fair share” fees to pay for services they’re required to provide for workers.  Bloomingdale stressed that no workers are actually compelled to become a member of any union:

    [Stephanie Bloomingdale]: “This overturning of the right-to-work law says everyone has to pay their fair share, there’s no free riders.  Just like you have to pay to ride the bus, you have to pay for services that are rendered to you.  Nobody has ever turned down the raise that’s negotiated by their union.  In order to have strong unions, we need to have solidarity in the workplace, we need to have people paying their fair share…and when that happens, we have a better path to a strong middle-class.”

    The grounds of the lawsuit and Judge Foust’s decision were based on an element of the Wisconsin state constitution called the “takings clause,” which says the state cannot force any entity to give something away for free:

    [Alex Hoekstra]: “That’s exactly what Right-to-Work does, it forces unions to give their services to non-members, non-payers for free.  Most of our members understand the benefits of being a member of the union and are more than willing to pay their fair share of that amount.  Whether they want to pay or not, we are forced to represent them under federal law in bargaining and grievances and any other matter that comes up during the day.”

    The state’s attorney general has promised to appeal the ruling to Wisconsin’s highly-partisan Supreme Court, but Hoekstra remains optimistic:

    [Alex Hoekstra]: “I know the makeup of the Supreme Court is considered conservative, but I have to hope and have to believe that even they can see and find that under the Wisconsin constitution that this Right-to-Work law really does violate the law.”

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