MADISON, Wis. – Moments ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld Wisconsin’s Right-to-Work law in International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 v. Schimel, affirming the decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
Attorney General Brad Schimel hailed the decision.
“The decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirms what we have argued since this law was enacted in 2015, that Right-to-Work is constitutional. The Constitution does not protect a union’s right to take money from non-union members and I’m proud to have defended the rule of law in Wisconsin.”
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals on Tuesday granted a stay of a Dane County Circuit judge’s decision to strike down the state’s Right to Work law, reinstating the law for now while an appeal is pending.
The order by the state District 3 Court of Appeals, based in Wausau, overrules a decision made earlier by Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust to not issue a stay of his own ruling throwing out the law on the grounds that the law unconstitutionally takes property from unions without compensation.
In issuing the stay, presiding judge Lisa Stark said “we conclude the State has established there is sufficient likelihood of success on appeal to warrant the grant of the stay” and that the lower court erred in concluding unions would suffer harm if a stay was issued.
My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
It has become so routine that it seems normal, but it is not — a Dane County judge has once again issued a daft ruling deeming a newly passed law to be unconstitutional. In an era when Democrats have been frustrated at the ballot box and relegated to the minority in the Legislature, they have turned to the court system to try to thwart the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives.
The pattern has become predictable. The Republican Legislature and Republican governor enact a law they support. The liberal Democrats, unable to prevail in the Legislature, sue on the grounds that the law is unconstitutional. As the seat of state government, the first step in the legal process is in the Dane County Circuit Courts, where virtually every judge is liberal and rules that the law is unconstitutional. Then, after a lot of time and money is spent appealing the ruling, the Dane County judge’s ruling is overruled and the law stands. It happened with Act 10. It happened with Voter ID. And now it is happening with right-to-work.
Wisconsin’s right-to-work law was passed earlier this year, making Wisconsin the nation’s 25th state to pass such a law. The concept of right-to-work is simple and rooted in our natural right to freely associate with whom we please, or not. Under the previous law, people were forced to pay dues to a union, a private organization, as a consequence of working in a unionized shop. The people had to pay those dues even if they did not support or agree with the union. Wisconsin’s right-to-work law simply allows people to not belong to, or pay dues to, a union if they do not want to.
Of course, unions have been a bastion for the Democratic Party for decades and those dues are used to fund campaigns for Democrats, so right-to-work threatens the Democratic Party’s power structure — so the Democrats resorted to the courts.
Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust gave his fellow liberals the ruling they wanted. The ruling is so devoid of lucidity that it will definitely be overruled on appeal, but the rationale used is worth knowing as it reveals something of the liberal mindset. Foust’s reasoning is that since the right-to-work law allows employees to not pay union dues, it erodes the money given to the unions. And since the unions are obligated to negotiate on behalf of all employees even if they do not pay dues, the law violates the constitutional provision prohibiting the government from taking property without fair compensation.
Got that? In other words, by virtue of the fact that private organizations — the unions — choose to negotiate on behalf of workers, those workers must be forced to pay for that private organization. Never mind that it is not the government denying dues, it is free people choosing to not pay dues. Never mind that the unions do not have to negotiate for anyone if they do not want to. In Foust’s mind and in the minds of his fellow travelers, the money does not belong to the individual to do with what they choose. It belongs to the collective and the role of government is to force the individual to give it to the collective.
Thankfully there is little doubt that Foust’s ruling will be overruled, but this incessant cycle of irrational judicial challenge initiated by sore losers must be mitigated. Part of the problem is that Dane County is far more liberal than the rest of the state. This is a county where more than 100,000 people voted for avowed socialist Bernie Sanders last week. That’s almost 50 percent more votes than all of the Republican votes combined. It is a liberal county that elects liberal judges.
Republicans tried to reform this in 2011 when they passed a law allowing the plaintiffs in cases challenging state laws to choose venues other than Dane County, but that reform simply allows the plaintiffs to shop for a favorable venue. Liberals will sue in Dane County and conservatives will sue in Washington County.
Instead of allowing plaintiffs to choose a venue or having all lawsuits take place in Dane County, Wisconsin should enact a lottery system for lawsuits challenging state laws. There are 249 circuit court judges in Wisconsin who are elected by their respective county’s voters, each perfectly capable of adjudicating a lawsuit. The judges in Dane County do not have any special powers or abilities that make them superior to a judge in, say, Superior.
There will be some cost associated with such a system. Since the state government is in Madison, virtually all of the resources needed to defend such a lawsuit reside near the seat of government. There will be cost in transporting those resources to other counties to defend the state, but in an age of videoconferencing and telecommuting, those costs could be easily allayed if the court chooses.
Dane County circuit judges have had too much power in the function of state government for far too long. It is time to inject some judicial diversity into the process by allowing judges elected in other parts of the state to participate.
I almost laughed when I read this. This ruling won’t withstand appeal.
A Dane County judge has struck down the state’s right-to-work law, ruling unions have property rights to collect fees for the services they provide to union members and nonmembers alike.
Judge William Foust issued the 15-page ruling on Friday, about a year after the law took effect.
The law prohibits unions and employers from entering agreements that require all employees to pay fees to a union, either in the form of membership dues or “fair-share” payments for those who opt out of joining a union but are still represented by it.
A group of private-sector unions sued the state, arguing state and federal law require unions to provide collective bargaining services to all employees in a represented workplace, regardless of whether they pay union dues. That made the state’s right-to-work law an illegal “taking” of their services, they argued.
There are two somewhat interesting things of note. First, we see again what has become the MO for Republican legislation in Wisconsin. After being duly passed into law, the liberals sue, a Dane County judge calls the law unconstitutional, and the judicial process proceeds until the law is eventually allowed to stand. We saw it with Act 10, Voter ID, etc. It is tiresome that liberals in this state can’t respect the will of the people as expressed through their duly elected representatives in the legislative and executive branches of government.
Second, try to understand the rationale of the lawsuit. They are claiming that since the union has to represent all employees, the fact that some employees can opt out of the union is a violation of the constitutional provision prohibiting government from taking money or property without just compensation. So in their minds, if a private organization (union) chooses to provide a service for a person without permission, then that person must pay the private organization for those services or it violates the constitution.
Of course, this line of legal theory has been advanced before in other states where Right to Work has been enacted, and failed the miserable legal death it deserves. But it does illustrate the liberal mindset that the individual’s money and property is theirs first and the individual get to keep whatever is left over.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he supports a national law prohibiting private-sector unions from requiring workers to join or pay dues, similar to one in Wisconsin.
Cruz said in an interview Thursday on WTMJ radio in Milwaukee that such “right to work” laws are a fundamental right. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a “right to work” law into place last year. Walker has endorsed Cruz and plans to campaign with him across Wisconsin before Tuesday’s primary.
Keeping in mind that I don’t think that forced unionization is constitutional anyway. It’s a violation of our civil right to freely associate – or not associate. But given the Supreme Court’s refusal to affirm that civil right, a law would be the easiest path to restoring our rights.
I admit… I’m surprised.
MADISON — Dane County Circuit Court Judge William Foust has denied a motion for a temporary injunction against the state’s right-to-work law.
The judge must believe that the plaintiffs case is really weak.
Machinists Local Lodge 1061, United Steelworkers District 2 and the Wisconsin AFL-CIO filed a lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin on Tuesday, the day after Gov. Scott Walker signed the contentious bill into law.
The unions argue that the law results in an unconstitutional taking of their property without just compensation and that enforcing the law would cause them irreparable harm.
A hearing is scheduled for March 19 before Dane County Circuit Judge C. William Foust. Unions are also asking the court to permanently prevent the implementation of the law.
The unions argue that the right-to-work law violates the takings clause of the state Constitution: “The property of no person shall be taken for public use without just compensation therefor.”
Their argument is that the law transfers property from unions to nonmembers to a degree that will cause irreparable injury to the organizations.
The argument is similar to one made by unions suing against Indiana’s right-to-work law a few years ago. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled against that argument, upholding the law. Indiana’s law was also upheld by a U.S. Appeals Court.
Let me ruin the surprise and tell you what’s going to happen… the Dane County judge will issue the injunction. It will be appealed and, eventually, Wisconsin’s right to work law will be upheld, but not before a lot of time and money is spent to prove the obvious. In the interim while the law is enjoined, unions will push hard for long term contracts. The unions know they will eventually lose, but this tactic will give them time to hang onto those dues as long as possible.
BROWN DEER — Gov. Scott Walker on Monday signed the contentious right-to-work bill at a factory in Brown Deer, making Wisconsin the 25th state with such a law.
Congrats and thanks to all of the folks who got this done. Wisconsin is better for it.
The Assembly approved right-to-work along party lines this morning, clearing the way for the bill to go to Gov. Scott Walker.
A Walker spokeswoman said the guv planned to sign it Monday.
Rep. Romaine Quinn, R-Rice Lake, delivering his maiden speech, disputed Dem’s economic arguments about right-to-work, but said the issue is a matter of freedom.
“The fact remains a good union doesn’t need compulsory membership and a bad one does not deserve it,” Quinn said.
After pushing for so long… this is actually happening. Awesome.
The state Senate approved right-to-work legislation Wednesday night 17-15 as GOP Sen. Jerry Petrowski broke ranks to join Dems in opposing the bill.
The legislation next heads to the Assembly, which is expected to have a hearing early next week and likely take up the bill March 5.
The Senate Labor Committee this evening approved right-to-work after Chair Steve Nass quickly shut down the public hearing, citing safety concerns.
While protesters shouted, Nass called the roll and declared the motion passed.
Nass said that due to a credible threat in a newspaper report that SEIU and Voces de la Frontera would disrupt the meeting, he closed the meeting and moved into executive session.
My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is:
It has been a political roller coaster for several months, but it appears that Wisconsin will become the 25th right-to-work state, possibly as early as this week, as the Legislature moves into action. Enacting right-to-work legislation will help Wisconsin’s economy. More importantly, the state government will finally cease infringing on workers’ right of association.
Detractors excel at injecting fear and confusion into the debate over a right-to-work law, but it is an exceedingly simple concept that is rooted in universally recognized human rights and in the principles of our nation’s founding. All it does is forbid the government or employers from forcing workers to either join or not join a union. That is it. Simple.
Right-to-work legislation affirms the principle stated in Article 20 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states, “(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.” It also affirms the principles of freedom of association and conscience enshrined in our national and state constitutions. Given how egregious our state has been infringing on these rights of workers, one wonders why we have allowed our government to get away for it for so many years.
Right-to-work opponents like to frame the debate in terms of an “attack” on unions and collective bargaining in general. It, however, does not do anything to diminish people’s right to collectively bargain. In fact, the legislation under consideration specifically reaffirms people’s collective bargain rights in Section 11.
Furthermore, the impact of right-to-work laws on unions is mixed. Both Michigan and Indiana passed right-to-work legislation in 2012. Since then, union membership in Michigan declined slightly, but union membership in Indiana actually increased.
The result in Indiana is widely believed to be because overall private sector employment has increased in Indiana, with its unemployment rate dropping from 8.3 percent in 2012 before right-towork was passed to 5.8 percent at the end of 2014. As more jobs are created in Indiana, more union jobs are created too. Clearly many of the private sector unions in Indiana still make a compelling case for workers to join them.
It is also worth noting that Wisconsin’s private union membership has been on the decline for many years. In 2004, almost 17 percent of Wisconsin’s private- sector workers were represented by unions, but only 12.5 percent are represented by unions now. Should Wisconsin pass right-to-work into law, it will only affect a fairly small minority of workers who are already in unions, but it will preserve the fundamental choice for all workers to join a union or not.
As of now, it appears as if right-to-work legislation will shortly be the law in Wisconsin. Gov. Scott Walker, despite once authoring a right-to-work bill when he as a legislator, has been trying to stave it off by deprioritizing it. But the legislative leaders of the Assembly and the Senate know that it is not going away.
It is a priority for elected Republicans and their constituents. The overwhelming election of Duey Stroebel in the 20th Senate District, who strongly advocated for right-to-work legislation, reconfirmed the mood of the Republican base regarding this issue. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos both said they would call their legislative houses into session for right-to-work passage and Walker publically declared that he would sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
As it looks like a right-to-work law is imminent, the Legislature should remember to keep it simple. As written, the right-to-work bill is less than five pages long. This makes sense because it does not take much to affirm such a simple principle. There has been talk recently of enacting certain carve-outs or exemptions for political reasons. The Legislature must reject all such notions and pass a simple, clean bill enacting right to work. Anything else is a recipe for political and legal trouble.
(Owen Robinson is a West Bend resident. His column runs Tuesdays in the Daily News.)
Either way, membership is down more than 50 percent from the union’s 98,000-member levels before Gov. Scott Walker signed his signature legislation in 2011 that significantly diminished collective bargaining rights for most public employees.
This is worth remembering as we debate Right to Work in Wisconsin. Just think of those numbers… for decades, 50% of WEAC’s membership was involuntary. Those people were compelled by law to send a portion of their hard-earned paycheck to WEAC. What did WEAC do with their money?
A decade ago, WEAC spent $1.5 million on lobbying during the 2005-2006 legislative session, state records show. The next session: $1.1 million. During the two sessions leading up to the passage of Act 10, WEAC spent $2.5 million and $2.3 million, respectively.
Right to Work is about choice. It is about the choice of a worker to join a union or not. In this case we find out that at least 50% of a union’s membership were people who did not want to be in it. It is a crime that we used the coercive force of government to make those people join and pay for a private organization for all of those years. Let’s hope that this week is a good week for the expansion of freedom in Wisconsin.
This is some positive news.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the right-to-work bill lawmakers will consider next week in an extraordinary session will be clean with no carve outs.
Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, also said he has 17 “rock solid” votes and hopes to persuade Sen. Jerry Petrowski, who has said he was unlikely to support right-to-work, to get on board.
Fitzgerald and his office have not returned calls so far this morning. But he said on 1130 AM the bill will be released this afternoon with plans to vote on it Wednesday.
Some had expected the Senate to wait for the open 20th Senate District to be filled before moving ahead on the bill with Republican Duey Stroebel, who backs the legislation, all but assured of winning the seat in April.
But Fitzgerald said he didn’t want to wait.
Waring Finke, the local lefty columnist for the West Bend Daily News, has penned a column opposing right to work in Wisconsin. It is perfectly acceptable for him to hold and espouse this opinion. What is not acceptable is for him to spread misinformation in his column as a means of misleading his readers on this topic.
Finke’s column includes two statements that are easily proven false. Here is the first:
Twenty-four states have enacted RTW laws in one form or another and not one has created a job or protected a current one.
This is false. In fact, states with right to work have grown jobs much faster than states without it – especially in industries dominated by unions:
Meanwhile, private employment has grown 4.9% in right-to-work states over the past three years, versus 3.9% in other states, according to an analysis of Labor Department data. This disparity is particularly stark in the factory sector: Manufacturing employment has grown 4.1% in right-to-work states over the past three years, compared with less than 3% in other states. Meanwhile, factory jobs pay 7.4% less in right-to-work states.
The economy is a dynamic thing and RTW is only a contributing component to the trend, but the data is clear that it does contribute positively to job growth.
Here is Finke’s second false statement, which is much closer to a lie:
If you do go to work in a union shop, you cannot be required to join the union as a condition of becoming employed. If you join the union and choose to pay dues…
The first sentence is true. In Wisconsin, workers can opt out of joining the union if they work for a unionized shop. What they are prohibited by law from doing is opting out of paying dues. So the operative word is in his next sentence. If you work in a union shop, you must pay dues to the union whether you join or not. Workers do not get to “choose to pay dues.” In fact, that is exactly what RTW seeks to do – give workers that choice. Finke paints the false picture that workers already have that choice. They do not.
It is a good sign that the other side of this debate knows their argument is weak if they feel the need to obfuscate the truth in an attempt to bolster their side.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker is telling Republican state senators he wants them focused on his agenda, not passing right-to-work legislation.
Walker spoke to senators during a caucus meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Walker mentioned right-to-work briefly as he was outlining his priorities of cutting property taxes, consolidating state government and passing a school accountability bill. He says debating right-to-work early in the session would distract from what he wants the Legislature focused on.
For a governor presiding over a state that is lagging the national average in private sector growth while also signaling that he will likely deny the Kenosha casino, Walker needs to stop pushing back on right to work. Politically speaking, he will damage his presidential primary chances by pushing against agenda items that are strongly supported by the conservative base. Practically speaking, right to work will likely help improve Wisconsin’s economy and Walker’s obstructionism is hurting potential job growth.
There’s good and bad here.
Vos expressed reservations about attempting to rush right-to-work legislation during the next session. He did say, however, that people need to show how it would benefit the state before any proposals move forward.
“If the business community wants it, if activists want it, if employers want it, they need to make the case why having right-to-work in Wisconsin is good for growing jobs, bringing more companies here, having our economy grow and thrive,” Vos said.
Vos went on to say that he would not support an exemption for trade unions as a component of right-to-work legislation.
“Either you say people have the right to join the union or you don’t. Is it worth it or not?” he said.
The good is that Vos is making it clear that Right to Work is an all or nothing proposition. It sounds like he won’t stand for carve outs and exclusions.
The bad is that Vos is laying out a framework in which the only justification for passing Right to Work is is it will demonstrably improve the economy. If evidence from other states is any guide, it might – depending on what you are measuring. Right to Work tend to have a more dynamic economy and add jobs more quickly, but it is one piece in a much larger economic puzzle. Bearing in mind that only 12% of Wisconsin’s private workforce are members of unions, Right to Work will likely have a relatively small impact on the economy. But, as I said, judging from other states, it certainly won’t hurt.
As a conservative, which Vos generally is, he should also know that the more pressing reason for Right to Work is a moral one – not an economic one. No person should be forced to pay dues to a third party group as a condition of their employment. Period. It is immoral and unnecessarily restrains the liberty of the individual. There are rare times when there is a compelling state interest to restrict individual liberty, but this is not one of them. The only beneficiaries of a closed shop state are the unions who gain more dues. The state has no compelling interest to force people to give their hard-earned money to unions any more than to any other private organization.
Let us hope that Speaker Vos chooses to accept arguments outside of the rigid framework he expressed here.
But Wisconsin Right to Work’s leader Lorri Pickens promised Monday to “aggressively promote” its right-to-work agenda. The news release announcing the group said its mission was to “advance freedom in the workforce by ensuring that all individuals, whether or not they choose to join a union, have the same benefits, rights and protections.”