In September 2016, U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller upheld Wisconsin’s “Right to Work” law against a challenge brought by the International Union of Operating Engineers (the Union). In doing so Judge Stadtmueller cited an earlier ruling by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upholding Indiana’s nearly identical right-to-work law.
The Union appealed Judge Stadtmueller’s ruling to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In the unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals’ three-judge panel upheld Wisconsin’s “Right-to-Work” law on July 12, 2017. The panel, consisting of Circuit Judges Joel M. Flaum, Michael S. Kanne and Frank H. Easterbrook, ruled that the Wisconsin law was essentially the same as the Indiana law the court previously upheld.
The Union challenged the Wisconsin law by claiming that the law was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and that it constituted an unlawful taking of the Union’s property without just compensation—which arguments were also the bases for the prior challenge to the Indiana law. The Court of Appeals ruled that the Union had failed to advance a compelling argument to reach a different conclusion.
The Wisconsin “Right to Work” law was enacted as 2015 Wisconsin Act 1. Under the Act, an employer may not enter into an agreement with a labor organization that requires employees in a collective bargaining unit to be members of a labor organization as a condition of employment. The law also prohibits businesses and unions from reaching agreements that require all workers to pay union dues. The Act took effect on March 11, 2015.
The Union challenging the Wisconsin law may attempt to appeal this case to the Supreme Court of the United States, but such appeals are discretionary with the court. Stay tuned for further developments. Until then, “Right to Work” remains the law of Wisconsin.