A Wisconsin state judge struck down the Wisconsin’s Right to Work Law on April 8. The decision amounts to a huge victory for unions as Right to Work Laws have critically damaged unions’ abilities to fill their treasuries.
Twenty-five states have enacted Right to Work legislation. Generally, Right to Work laws have targeted unions’ ability to obtain fees from their members. Under the laws, a union cannot mandate that members pay dues to the union. The text reads “no person may require, as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment, an individual to pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges or expense of any kind or amount, or provide anything of value, to a labor organization.” Unions argue that the law creates “free-riders,” or people that want the advantage of being a union worker, but do not want to pay money to the union. On the other side, pro-business entities, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue that mandating payments to a union is a violation of individual rights.
Judge C. William Foust sided with the union, calling the law a violation of the state’s constitution. The union asked the court to acknowledge the law violated Article 1, Section 13, of the Wisconsin Constitution, which holds that property of no person shall be taken for public use without just compensation. The court established a four part-test, asking: 1) if there was property 2) if the property was taken 3) whether the taking was for public use, and 4) whether the plaintiffs received just compensation. Foust entertained and agreed with the union that its services constitute property under the law. The court theorized that a mechanic, doctor, or telephone company would be stupefied to find that they do not own the services they perform. The court ended up siding with the plaintiffs on all four components and held the law did violate unions’ constitutional rights.
The decision strikes a dagger to the heart of one of Governor Scott Walker’s (R-WI) eminent pieces of legislation. The law initially triggered a recall election, which Governor Walker narrowly defeated. Wisconsin Attorney General Schimel commented, “we are extremely disappointed that the Dane County Circuit Court struck down Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, but we are confident the law will be upheld on appeal.”
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Case No.: 015CV000628, Order (Document )