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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Workers Say Ex-Union Keeps Taking Their Money

MILWAUKEE (CN) — Four employees claim in federal court that a Wisconsin transit union is forcing them to join and pay dues in violation of the state's right-to-work law.

A posted letter from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1733's president falsely states that the law has been struck down pending a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a federal lawsuit filed Friday in Milwaukee.

Billy Lightsey and three other First Student Inc. employees from Kenosha, Wis., claim they resigned from the union, as was their right, in late April.

Instead of responding to their letters of resignation, the transit workers say, the union continued to withdraw dues from their paychecks through Oct. 28, and posted the misleading letter where all employees could see it.

"Local 1733 breached its duty of fair representation by continuing to seize union dues from plaintiffs' wages after they resigned their union membership and revoked their checkoff authorizations," the complaint states. "Local 1733 also breached, and continues to breach, its duty of fair representation by posting and continuing to post the May 5th letter, which contains at least two falsehoods aimed at restricting employees' ability to resign and/or stop paying dues or fees."

In fact, the right-to-work law is in effect: In May, Wisconsin's appeals court stayed Dane County Circuit Court Judge William Foust's decision overturning the law until it rules on the matter. The appeals court has not yet held oral argument in the case.

Wisconsin lawmakers passed the law after a marathon 24-hour legislative session ending on March 6, 2015. Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the legislation shortly afterward.

Before Friday's lawsuit, a federal judge threw out a challenge to the right-to-work law, a decision both the state and the unions have appealed to the Seventh Circuit. That appeals court will have to issue a final ruling before any group can petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review, a lengthy and often unsuccessful venture.

An email requesting comment from Matthew Gilliam, the plaintiffs' attorney out of the Virginia-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Inc., was not immediately returned Tuesday.

No contact information was available for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1733, and calls to the national office and another local group went unanswered.

It is unclear whether the union is still withdrawing dues from the paychecks of Lightsey and the other plaintiffs, Richard Erickson, James Wilke and Thomas Peachey.

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