Defending Wisconsin's Right-to-Work Law
Machinists Local 1061 v. Walker, International Union v. Schimel, and International Association of Machinists v. Allen
Machinists Local 1061 v. Walker
Plaintiffs, two labor organizations and one federation of labor organizations, filed suit seeking declaratory judgment that 2015 Wisconsin Act 1, Wisconsin's "right-to-work" statute that prohibits any person from requiring that an individual be a member of or make payments to a labor organization as a condition of employment, violates the Takings Clause of the Wisconsin Constitution. The Wisconsin Circuit Court for Dane County issued a judgment on April 15, 2015 finding Act 1 to effect an unconstitutional taking of the private property of labor organizations in the State of Wisconsin. The State appealed the decision to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, and sought a stay of the order from that court. The court of appeals granted the motion to stay, allowing the law to remain in effect pending its decision.
Status: The District III Court of Appeals agreed with the Solicitor General's office that Act 1 does not effect an unconstitutional "taking" of union property and reversed the Dane County Circuit Court's ruling.
International Union v. Schimel
Plaintiff unions challenged Wisconsin's right-to-work law as both pre-empted by federal law (namely, the National Labor Relations Act) and as an unconstitutional taking of the unions' services. The State argued that the Plaintiffs' arguments are foreclosed by Seventh Circuit precedent, that the Plaintiffs' takings claim is unripe, and that their claims are otherwise meritless.
Status: The United States District Court for the Eastern Distict of Wisconsin agreed with the Solicitor General's Office that the Wisconsin law was nearly identical to an Indiana law the Seventh Circuit had previously upheld, and dismissed the unions' complaint with prejudice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal.
International Association of Machinists v. Allen
Wisconsin's checkoff-agreements law provides that a union dues deduction is illegal unless the employer has an employee’s signed authorization to make the deduction. The authorization is terminable by the employee upon at least 30 days’ written notice to the employer. Under federal law, however, a written dues check-off assignment is irrevocable for a period of one year unless rescinded within the first 15 days. International Association of Machinists (the “Union”) rejected one employee’s request to revoke her checkoff authorization since her request was not presented in compliance with the federal law. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (the “DWD”) found that the employee’s notice was timely in accordance with state law. The Union sought to overturn the DWD’s decision, claiming that federal rather than state law should apply to the notice requirements. The Union further argued that the Supreme Court had already settled that federal law preempts state regulation of checkoff agreements with no subsequent doctrinal developments, meaning the federal law should control. The State argued that the precedents the Union cited only apply to field preemption, not conflict preemption, and that state law controls because this is a conflict-preemption case.
Status: Awaiting decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals