AFL-CIO, Machinists, USW File Lawsuit to Halt Wisconsin’s “Right-to-Work” Law

Workers rallied at the statehouse for several days before "Right-to-Work" became law (via WTOP)

Workers rallied at the statehouse for several days before “Right-to-Work” became law (via WTOP)

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO and two unions have filed a lawsuit seeking both temporary and permanent injunctions against the “Right-to-Work” legislation signed into law on Monday by Governor Scott Walker.   The lawsuit names Walker, Attorney General Brad Schimel, and members of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission as defendants.

Arguing that the law unconstitutionally takes their property without just compensation and that enforcing it would cause them irreparable harm, Machinists Local Lodge 1061, United Steelworkers (USW) District 2 and the Wisconsin AFL-CIO filed the lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court.  A hearing has been scheduled for March 19th where Circuit Judge C. William Foust will be asked to issue a temporary restraining order.

The lawsuit argues that “Right-to-Work” is unconstitutional because it requires unions to act on behalf of workers who receive union representation without paying dues and therefore receive an unfair benefit.   In an affidavit written by Ross Winklbauer, Sub-district Director for USW District 2, Winklbauer argues that his union represents over 25,000 workers in the state, of which 54 are “fair share payers.”  These workers pay 78.5 percent of the standard dues amount.  According to the lawsuit:

“Wisconsin (right-to-work) law deprives the unions of all methods of charging nonmembers for the services that they receive from the unions,” the complaint states. “In other words, it requires that unions either provide free services to nonmembers or go out of business entirely.”

Using the argument of “duty of fair representation,” the plaintiffs hope to make the case that “Right-to-Work” dismantles their well-being:

“These sums are the primary source of income for these organizations, without which they would be unable to fulfill their purposes of collective bargaining and the representation of employees, including non members employees.”

Representatives of the Walker administration told the press that they believe the law will be upheld.  Recent “Right-to-Work” laws in Indiana and Michigan were upheld by federal courts.  

In a statement, Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, said “Right-to-Work” would “lower wages, weaken safety standards, and hurt Wisconsin families.”

“Allowing some workers to get fair representation for nothing is unfair, un-American and not our Wisconsin,” he added.

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