Wisconsin appeals court upholds ‘right-to-work’ law, dealing blow to unions

Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON – The state Court of Appeals upheld Wisconsin’s “right-to-work” law Tuesday, dealing a second legal blow to unions two months after a similar federal lawsuit was thrown out.

GOP Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers in 2015 approved the law, which prohibits labor contracts that require all workers in certain job classifications — including those who don’t want to belong to a union — to pay union fees.

Unions sued in state and federal court. Federal law requires unions to represent all workers in certain job classes, and the unions argued it was unconstitutional for the government to prevent them from collecting fees from all workers who they had to provide services for.

RELATED: For unions in Wisconsin, a fast and hard fall since Act 10

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the law was constitutional in July and threw out the federal lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin District 3 Court of Appeals unanimously issued a similar decision. The Wausau-based court found the law was constitutional, rejecting the unions’ argument that the government had deprived them of income from non-members.

“The unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of non-member employees,” Judge Mark Seidl wrote for the court.

He was joined by Judges Thomas Hruz and Lisa Stark.

Their decision overturned an April 2016 ruling by Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust that found the law unconstitutional. The appeals court had kept the law in place while it considered the case.

The case was brought by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and units of the International Associations of Machinists and United Steelworkers.