Putting Right-to-Work on Defense: New Lawsuits Seek to Expand on Wisconsin Victory

Frederick Perillo

In April 2016, the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, the USW and the Machinists Union obtained an injunction against the enforcement of the state’s so-called “right to work” law—the first of its kind in nearly 70 years—in Machinists v. Walker. The unions won the first round of their challenge to “right to work” in a state court, arguing that the law imposed an unconstitutional “taking” of their property by requiring them to represent non-union workers for free. The Previant Law Firm, S.C., handled this case for the unions.

Now, the Wisconsin challenge to right to work laws is not alone, as other unions seeks to expand the front in the battle against “right to work.”

On May 19, 2016, another union has now filed a federal challenge to the right to work law, this time in federal court. The new lawsuit seeks to overturn the 2014 case of Sweeney v. Pence, decided in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Sweeney held that “right to work” laws could prohibit not only union membership, but any payments of any kind to a union.

In addition to challenging Sweeney, the new lawsuit also seeks to use the same unconstitutional “takings” argument made in Machinists v. Walker, but on a federal level, this time arguing that the Fifth Amendment to the federal constitution also prohibits the combination of requiring unions to represent non-union workers and prohibiting the unions from seeking any compensation for these required expenditures.

A third challenge to “right to work” has also been filed in federal court in Idaho. It also argues the same theory as in Machinists v. Walker.