Friday, July 14, 2017

7th Circuit Upholds Wisconsin 'Right-to-Work' Law

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, confirmed the Wisconsin district court decision that upheld the state’s “right to work” legislation.  As readers likely know, right to work laws prohibit unions from requiring employees in union represented jobs who choose not to join the union to pay “fair share” dues or fees. Traditionally, unions have been allowed to assess these fair share dues against non-union members as a charge for the indirect benefits they receive from the union’s work, such as wage increases and terms of employment.

An almost identical case was decided almost three years ago by the 7th Circuit when it upheld Indiana’s right to work law. In fact, both cases were brought by the same union, the International Union of Operating Engineers. In its decision last Wednesday, the court found that there was no substantial difference between the Indiana and Wisconsin cases or legislation so it was bound to follow its own rule of law.

Wednesday's decision comes at a time when an increasing number of GOP led legislatures are enacting right to work laws. In February, Missouri became the 28th state to enact such legislation. Wisconsin adopted its right to work bill in 2015, and its governor, Scott Walker, is often seen as a leader in the movement to curb collective bargaining rights of public employees as well as a proponent of right to work laws.

The case that many thought would resolve this issue, at least in part, was Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in which the plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of the teachers union’s right to collect fair share dues from non-union members who worked in union represented positions. Poised for decision by the U. S. Supreme Court, the case ended up in a 4 – 4 tie after the death of Justice Scalia, who many say would have found in favor of the plaintiff and against compulsory fair share dues.

With 28 states legislatively declared right to work states, the individual states are taking over where the Supreme Court got stuck.