Federal Court Sides with Wisconsin in Right-to-Work Case

Wisconsin Federal Court House

United States District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller granted the State of Wisconsin’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and denied plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction inInternational Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 v. Schimel, et. al., a case challenging 2015 Wisconsin Act 1, known as the state’s “right to work” law.

“I am pleased with the court’s decision today vindicating Wisconsin’s right-to-work law and rejecting the notion that the State has taken the private property of unions,” said Attorney General Brad Schimel. “I am hopeful that the court’s holding will be adopted by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in Machinists Local 1061 v. Walker, which remains pending and raises similar arguments in challenging Act 1.”

The plaintiff unions alleged that Act 1, which prohibits unions from requiring the payment of dues, fees, or assessments of any kind or amount by non-union workers as a condition of employment, conflicts with the National Labor Relations Act.  The unions also claimed that Act 1 constitutes an unlawful taking under the United States Constitution because, in the unions’ view, it requires the unions to represent non-union members, yet prohibits the unions from entering into collective bargaining agreements that would allow them to force non-union members to cover the costs expended by the unions in the course of their exclusive representation.

The court ruled that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2014 decision in Sweeney v. Pence, which upheld Indiana’s right-to-work law, controlled the outcome with respect to Wisconsin’s law.  Applying Sweeney, the district court concluded that Act 1 was not pre-empted by federal law and further rejected the plaintiffs’ takings claim.