A Dane County judge struck down Wisconsin's so-called right-to-work law Friday. Attorney General Brad Schimel said he would appeal. Last year, Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature made Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state. Such laws bar businesses and unions from reaching labor deals that require workers to pay fees to the union.
Supporters of the law say workers shouldn't have to make such payments if they don't want to belong to a union. Unions argue they should be able to negotiate contracts to require fees from all workers who benefit from the wages and job protections they provide.
The law was struck down by Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust in a lawsuit brought by the state AFL-CIO and unions representing steelworkers and machinists.
Here's the relevant passages of Judge Foust's decision:
A Wisconsin labor organization, or a union, is any employee organization in which employees participate and that exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of engaging in collective bargaining with any employer concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, hours, benefits, or other terms or conditions of employment." Wis. Stat §1U.02(9g).
In sum, a Wisconsin union must engage in collective bargaining; to engage in collective bargaining, it must represent a majority of the employees in a collective bargaining unit, which is a majority of all employees in the workplace. For an employer to bargaining collectively with a union representing anything less than a majority of employees is prohibited. §111.06(l)(e).
The State argues, and Amici agree, that "neither federal nor state law requires a union or other entity to become an exclusive bargaining representative." (Defs.' 0pp.Br. 5;Amicus Br. 3 ("Unions voluntarily choose to become exclusive representatives.")).
That statement is disingenuous. A union makes no election to become the exclusive representative; if the union exists at all, as statutorily defined by§ 1n.02(9g) (i.e. to engage in collective bargaining), and is chosen by a majority of the employees voting in a collective bargaining unit, then it must be the employees' exclusive representative. It cannot decline exclusive representative status unless it declines to be voted in at a workplace to begin with. Neither the State nor Amici have substantiated their argument with any way in which a union could evade this status. The deliberate interplay of Wisconsin statutes and case law make it so.
Because there may be only one group representing a majority of employees in a given workplace, a union, once elected, becomes the sole—or exclusive—representative of all employees in the workplace.
The Court finds Act 1 effects a taking of Plaintiffs' property without just compensation in violation of Article I § 13 of the Wisconsin Constitution. Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted, Dated this 8th day of April, 2016.