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Union calls right-to-work law in Wisconsin unconstitutional

A court in Dane County will hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by the Machinists Local Lodge 1061 claiming that the state's right-to-work law violates constitutional law. The law, signed by Gov. Scott Walker, stopped the requirement that employees in positions represented by private unions pay mandatory dues to a union. Machinists Local Lodge 1061, an affiliate of three labor groups including the International Association of Machinists District 10, asserted in its lawsuit that this new law requires unions to perform unpaid representation of nonunion workers.

According to court papers, the union expects the loss of dues to financially undermine its ability to represent its members and employees outside the union. This financial limitation would interfere with its collective bargaining mission. Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics already show a decline in union membership. In Wisconsin, membership fell from 11.7 percent in 2014 to 8.3 percent in 2015.

Legal challenges against right-to-work laws in other states have not succeeded in overturning the laws. The president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said that unions never give up collecting dues from workers unless forced to do so. He called Wisconsin's right-to-work law a "victory for workplace freedom."

When disputes arise between a worker and an employer, a union member could ask the union for help. If a union fails to get results or the worker does not belong to a union, then contacting a lawyer remains an option. A lawyer can advise a client about how to document and report workplace discrimination, wage claims, wrongful termination or other complaints.

Source: Watchdog, "Wisconsin's Right-to-Work Law Goes on Trial", M.D. Kittle, Feb. 25, 2016

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