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7th Circuit affirms Wisconsin’s limits on unions, Indiana RTW challenge remains

April 18, 2014

While still considering a challenge to Indiana’s right-to-work law, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed Wisconsin’s statute limiting the collective bargaining power of some public sector unions.  

The Badger State’s general-employee unions, those organizations that include state and municipal workers who do not hold public safety jobs, challenged Wisconsin’s Act 10 which limited government employers from collectively bargaining with general employees over anything except base wages.

The unions argue, in part, that restrictions created by Act 10 make it difficult for them to represent their members’ interest through the collective-bargaining process. In particular, the union charged their ability to continue to function is impaired partly by the restriction on making non-union workers pay something for the representation they receive, called fair-share agreements.

The prohibition on fair-share agreements were also part of the argument against Indiana’s right-to-work law. In James M. Sweeney v. Mitch E. Daniels, Jr., 13-1264, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 assert the state law provisions that prohibit unions from requiring all employees to pay a “fair share” of the collective bargaining costs violate federal law.

The 7th Circuit has yet to issue an opinion in the Indiana case, but it rejected the arguments from the Wisconsin public sector workers.

“The unions protest that they are an expressive association whose core purpose is to bargain with state employers on their employees’ behalf,” Judge Joel Flaum wrote in Laborers Local 236, AFL-CIO, et al. v. Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin, et al., 13-3193. “By enacting laws that prevent the unions from accomplishing this purpose, the unions argue, Wisconsin has weakened their association to a devastating extent. But that simply is not how the First Amendment works. An organization cannot come up with an associational purpose – even a purpose that involves speech – and then require support from the state in order to realize it goal.”

 
 
 

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