Biz Groups Sue State Over Union Law

MILWAUKEE (CN) – Two business groups claim that Wisconsin enacted an unconstitutional law that prohibits employers from “conducting mandatory meetings with employees to communicate the employer’s opinion about the advantages or disadvantages of joining or supporting a union.” The 15-page complaint does not mention any advantages to joining a union.

     The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce sued Gov. Jim Doyle and Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman in Federal Court.
     Gov. Doyle signed Senate Bill 585 into law in May. The law prohibits employers – and unions and hiring and licensing agencies – from discriminating against anyone for “declining to attend a meeting or to participate in any communication about religious or political matters.”
     The business groups claim SB 585 violates the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act and the National Labor Relations Act by failing to allow employers to communicate with their employees. And they say the state exceeded its jurisdiction.
     SB 585 also make it illegal to fire or retaliate against a worker for filing a complaint about rights violations, or testifying in “any action or proceeding held under or to enforce certain rights,” or because “the individual’s employer believes that the individual engaged or may have engaged in any activities set forth above.”
     The plaintiffs claim that this creates “a broad new statutory class of wrongful termination and retaliation claims in Wisconsin.”
     They claim the law will bring an onslaught of wrongful termination and retaliation claims.
     According to the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce website: “Creating more opportunities for Wisconsin employers to be sued will not improve Wisconsin employers’ ability to create jobs and grow the economy.”
     The Web posting adds: “The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that the states may not regulate in areas that impinge on private sector labor that are under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board.”
     The Wisconsin AFL-CIO blog reported a different take on SB 585.
     Under the headline, “Election Day Made a Difference: New Laws Make Wisconsin a Safer, More Equitable Place to Work,” the AFL-CIO reported: “In the past these mandatory meetings have been used to scare workers out of forming a union. Under the new law, companies can still hold one-sided meetings but they can no longer punish workers who do not attend.”
     The business groups want enforcement of SB 585 enjoined. They are represented by Jonathan Levine with Littler Mendelson.

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