Court Declares Wisconsin “Right to Work” Law Unconstitutional
Milwaukee, WI (April 10, 2016)– The Dane County Circuit Court, by Chief Judge C. William Foust, declared on Friday April 8, that 2015 Wisconsin Act 1, otherwise known as Wisconsin’s “Right-to-Work” Law, is unconstitutional. The decision in favor of The Previant Law Firm, S.C. is the first time in 70 years that a challenge to a statewide “right to work” law has been sustained in a court.
The ruling is the conclusion of a lawsuit brought by several Wisconsin unions. The Plaintiffs included affiliates of the Machinists Union, The United Steelworkers and The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, all longstanding clients of Previant.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel stated, “We’re no longer a right to work state until we get this stayed.” Because an unconstitutional law cannot be enforced, this decision means that unions in Wisconsin are now free to negotiate union shop clauses into their collective bargaining agreements.
Judge Foust agreed with the Unions that the “right to work” law forces unions to provide services to non-members who are not required to pay anything for the costs of such representation. The Court calls this situation “the free-rider effect of Act 1 on Wisconsin organized labor.” “Free rider” captures the unfairness of letting some workers “ride the bus” without paying the fare—in this case, their fair share of the costs of their own representation.
Attorney Frederick Perillo Lead Counsel for the Unions said, “The technical term for this situation is a “taking” of property for public use without just compensation, which is prohibited under the Wisconsin Constitution.”
The Court agreed Wisconsin unions do have a property interest in their representation services and in the money they spend to represent non-members. It also held that the State’s regulation of unions, specifically by requiring that they represent non-members without charge, constitutes a taking of that property.
Finally, the Court held that the State deprived the unions of just compensation for their services and property because the “right to work” law prohibits unions from charging non-members any amount of money to defray the costs of representation.
A status conference in court is expected on Monday April 11, so there will be some further proceedings on this matter in the coming week.