Idaho Attorney General Defends Right-to-Work Law in Court

Published October 19, 2016

Idaho’s chief legal officer is asking a federal judge to dismiss a labor union’s lawsuit challenging the state’s right-to-work law, citing the recent dismissal of a similar case in Wisconsin.

In October 2015, an Idaho labor union sued the state’s attorney general, Lawrence Wadsen, claiming Idaho’s 1986 right-to-work law forced the union to represent workers choosing not to join the organization.

Nearly a year later, in October 2016, lawyers representing the Idaho state government filed paperwork asking U.S. District Court Judge Candy Dale to dismiss the lawsuit, citing the September dismissal of a similar suit challenging Wisconsin’s right-to-work law.

Forced ‘Political Activism’

Fred Birnbaum, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, says compulsory union membership forces people to engage in political speech with which they may not agree.

“Unions engage in a lot of political activism, and they’re supposed to refund money when they use dues for political activities,” Birnbaum said. “It’s often very hard to sort that out, and it might have nothing to do with the purpose of the union. It’s hard for an individual to figure out how their money is being used and then ask for that portion of their dues to be refunded.”

Birnbaum says overturning the state’s right-to-work law and reinstating compulsory union membership would be a loss for workers.

“I can actually say I worked in situations that were open-shop and closed-shop, and compelling people to pay dues didn’t bring about any more labor peace than allowing people to opt out,” Birnbaum said. “If a group of employees decide to unionize, they should have the right, and if some feel that they don’t want to unionize they should also have that right.”

Politically Motivated ‘Nonsense’

Akash Chougule, director of policy with Americans for Prosperity, says lawsuits filed against right-to-work laws are “nonsense.”

“These lawsuits are nothing more than hypocritical, politically charged nonsense,” Chougule said. “Unions make it seem as though workers and employers are completely incapable of bargaining and negotiating for themselves without a union, but the vast majority of Americans who aren’t in unionized workplaces do just that, and right-to-work states, as well as the right-to-work federal government, are in no way lacking labor peace and harmony any more than forced-unionism states.”

Winning Hearts and Minds

Chougule says labor unions are hoping forced unionism is more popular with government judges than it is with voters.

“The desperation to protect their forced-dues cartel is clear, as is the fact that they cannot win in the court of public opinion, which is why they’ve resorted to legal challenges to a problem they helped create,” Chougule said.