Right-to-Work Law Reinstated in Wisconsin

by | May 26, 2016

By Bill Glauber

Right to work is back on the books in Wisconsin, at least temporarily.

Late Tuesday, a state court of appeals judge granted Attorney General Brad Schimel's request to reinstate the law while the appeals court decides whether it's constitutional.

The ruling was issued by Lisa K. Stark, the presiding judge for the District 3 Court of Appeals in Wausau.

"We feel confident the law will ultimately be found constitutional, as it has been in more than half the states across the country," said Johnny Koremenos, spokesman for Schimel.

Last year, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led Legislature made Wisconsin the 25th right to work state. The measure bars businesses and unions from reaching labor deals that require workers to pay fees to the union.

In April, Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust found Wisconsin's law, known as Act 1, violated a clause of the state constitution that says the government can't take property from individuals or organizations without fair compensation. He later declined declined to put on hold his ruling and Schimel, a Republican, appealed.

Stark, in her five-page order, concluded the lower court overstepped its bounds in not putting its ruling on hold. The record, she said, did not indicate the unions would suffer substantial harm if the law stayed in effect while on appeal. She said "there is sufficient likelihood" that the law will eventually be upheld.

Supporters of so-called right to work laws argue no one should be forced to pay union fees if they don't want to belong to a labor group. Unions contend such contracts should be allowed because federal law requires them to represent all employees in a work unit -- meaning that they all benefit from the protections and higher wages unions provide.

The case will likely end up at the state Supreme Court, which conservatives control by a 5-2 margin.

(c)2016 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel