Right to work scores a major win in Wisconsin

The Free Beacon updates us on the right to work movement in Wisconsin, where the state court of appeals has just delivered a major ruling which comes as a serious blow to the state’s unions. The Badger State passed a right to work law back in 2015 which forbids companies from making union membership compulsory as a condition of employment, but the unions have been throwing their full weight into challenging the law and tying it up in court.

That may have finally come to an end this week as the justices tossed out one of their final claims. The unions argued that the law was somehow in violation of the state constitution, but the court found the argument unpersuasive.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the state’s right-to-work law was constitutional and ordered a district court to dismiss a union lawsuit on Tuesday.

The three-judge panel effectively ended a suit from a coalition of the state’s largest labor unions seeking to block the 2015 law, known as Act 1, from taking effect. The Court said the unions failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the law, which prohibits companies from mandating union membership as a condition of employment, violated the state Constitution by unlawfully denying them property without compensation.

“Act 1 does not take property within the meaning of the Wisconsin Constitution. … The Unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of non-member employees,” the ruling says.

What made the unions’ claim in this case so remarkably outrageous was the way they framed their objection. The plaintiffs claimed that the law deprived them of property without compensation. In essence, what they were saying was that a portion of every worker’s paycheck was theirs by right and passing a law denying them their cut of the money was therefore unconstitutional.

That’s a staggering level of hubris, but in earlier times the unions were able to get away with that sort of claim in far too many cases. Their arguments about the “free rider” problem (saying that the non-union members benefited from the unions’ negotiations) also fell on deaf ears. A federal judge in an earlier case had found that one persuasive, but that claim has now also hit a dead end.

That wasn’t the only victory on the right to work front this week. As the Free Beacon mentions later, the West Virginia state supreme court also halted a preliminary injunction placed on that state’s own 2016 right to work law on Monday.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals dismissed a lower court’s preliminary injunction that blocked the state from implementing right to work legislation passed last year…

“The unions have not directed us to any federal or state appellate court that, in over seven decades, has struck down such a law,” the court said in a Friday court order. “The circuit court erred in granting the preliminary injunction.”

We’re building up a significant body of precedent in these cases. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t been entirely consistent on the matter, but they’ve always treated First Amendment claims in questions of mandatory union membership and dues collection seriously. This dates back to the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education as well as Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson in 1986. Even when forced unionization was allowed, the courts have insisted that the purpose of the dues collected had to be limited in use to actual work benefiting the workers, not political speech on their behalf.

The unions have failed in that task (intentionally by the looks of it) and the courts are increasingly rejecting their claims. The irony in all of this is that the unions don’t seem to realize that if they’d just stuck to the business of representing their members at the bargaining table and spending their dues money on strike funds, retirement programs and other direct benefits, they would probably still be holding a lot of power. But when they decided to become the primary financiers of the Democratic Party, everything began going downhill for them.

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