Wisconsin Worker Choice Law Reinstated While Court Challenge Continues

Published July 14, 2016

A Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge overruled a county judge’s decision to invalidate the state’s right-to-work (RTW) law, reinstating the law while the appellate court decides whether to overturn or uphold the lower court’s ruling.

In April, Dane County Circuit Court Judge William Foust, agreed with legal arguments made by labor unions seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s right-to-work law. Foust ruled the state’s prohibition against compulsory labor union membership could decrease unions’ cash flow, including dues collected from workers against their will, thus constituting an illegal seizure of private property by the government.

Foust refused to grant government lawyers’ request to reinstate the law during the appeals process, but District 3 Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Lisa Stark granted the request.

Right to Involuntary Dues?

Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a nonprofit public-interest law firm, says labor unions feel they have a right to other people’s money.

“[Labor unions] say their private property has been taken, because if they become an exclusive bargaining agent for a collective bargaining unit, they have to represent all of them under federal and state law, but they can’t force all of them to pay dues, so they are being forced to work on behalf of people who don’t have to pay them,” Esenberg said. “This, [they argue,] is a taking of their resources because they now must work and aren’t being compensated. That’s their theory.”

Rigged Game

Esenberg says unions are the victimizers, not the victims.

“The unions avail themselves of some very favorable laws governing collective bargaining, but prior to the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act, it wasn’t even clear that unionization wasn’t an antitrust violation,” Esenberg said. “The law says that a union can become an exclusive bargaining agent, it doesn’t have to worry about competition from anyone else, and they have a right to compel the employer to bargain in good faith. That’s a powerful right, that you can make someone listen to you.”

Giving Workers a Choice

Aparna Mathur, a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, says right-to-work laws benefit businesses and workers alike.

“More businesses prefer to locate in states where there are RTW laws,” Mathur said. “With [right to work], all they are saying is that you can’t force an employee to be a part of a union. That also means that if the employee thinks they are better off in a union, they can be in a union. The worker has a choice. If you look at the data and the findings, allowing employees a choice is the best approach.”

Jen Kuznicki ([email protected]) writes from Hawks, Michigan.

Internet Info:

Timothy J. Bartik, “Business Location Decisions in the United States: Estimates of the Effects of Unionization, Taxes, and Other Characteristics of States,” Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, January 1, 1985: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/business-location-decisions-united-states-estimates-effects-unionization-taxes-and-/