Wisconsin’s New Anti-|Union Law Inspires Suit

     MADISON, Wis. (CN) – Wisconsin labor organizations filed suit against the state on Tuesday, a day after Gov. Scott Walker signed the so-called right-to-work law.
     The Wisconsin AFL-CIO and two local unions claim that the Act 1’s prohibition on charging dues to nonmembers is an unjust taking of union property.
     “Wis. Act 1 deprives the unions of their property without just compensation by prohibiting the unions from charging nonmembers who refuse to pay for representative services which unions continue to be obligated to provide,” the complaint in Dane County Circuit Court states.
     In addition to Wisconsin and Walker, state Attorney General Brad Schimel and two officials with the state’s Employment Relations Commission are named as defendants.
     A hearing on the unions’ bid for a temporary restraining order is slated for March 19.
     Gov. Walker signed the right-to-work bill into law Monday after it quick passage through both houses of the Republican-controlled Legislature. On Friday the bill passed after a 24-hour extraordinary session in the state Assembly.
     The unions note that federal and state law requires them to represent both members and nonmembers.
     “This duty furthermore applies to all aspects of the labor organization’s relationship with the employees and their employer including without limitation the negotiation, administration, and enforcement of collective bargaining agreements, including the processing of grievances up to and through arbitration,” the complaint states. “The fulfillment of this duty requires the labor organizations to expend considerable sums of money to employ trained staff, outside professionals, and arbitrators, and other property including meeting halls, offices, libraries, computers and other physical, tangible property, as well as the services of the members of the organization.”
     Act 1 marks the second major blow to unions in Wisconsin since Walker took office, the first being Act 10, which limited the collective-bargaining rights of public-sector unions to wages alone. Despite earlier assurances that right-to-work was not a priority, Walker supported Act 1.
     Schimel noted in a statement that similar laws in Indiana and Michigan have withstood judicial scrutiny, and Wisconsin’s will not be an exception.
     Walker’s office and the unions’ attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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