Court upholds Wisconsin workplace freedom law
News from Madison yesterday delivered another blow to union executives seeking to restrict workers’ rights to freedom of speech and association. Wisconsin courts have again upheld Act 10, the law that made Wisconsin the latest right to work state by bringing equal access to workplace freedom to all employees in the Badger State.
Act 10 is based on a simple principle of social justice: no one should be forced to join or give money to a union against his or her will.
Executives at the state’s once-powerful teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association, filed the legal challenge in an effort to reverse the loss of members and dues money that has occurred since teachers gained the freedom to quit the WEA and still keep their jobs.
Union executives are angry about passage of the worker rights law because it threatens their business model of using mandatory membership and forced monthly dues to create a secure revenue stream. Since the passage of Act 10 in 2011 Wisconsin unions have lost thousands of members and millions of dollars in dues payments.
Once the top political operation in the state capitol, union executives now control a fraction of the unregulated money they once funneled to lobbying and political campaigns.
Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan, once union strongholds, have recently joined the ranks of right to work states. Union executives in Washington, long confident in the state’s historical deference to unions, now worry workers here may gain the same rights.
Their concern is reflected in their strong reaction against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaking September 5th at the Washington Policy Center Columbia Awards dinner in downtown Seattle. Calling Seattle a “union town,” labor executives said that Governor Walker, but more importantly his reform ideas, are not welcome here – “Not in Our State,” as protest organizers put it.
Their fear is understandable. They don’t want workers in Washington state to learn about the new workplace protections their colleagues in Wisconsin now enjoy. Washington state union executives don’t want to go through what they have seen their Wisconsin counterparts experience - a rapid decline in their political power. Legislation drafted by state Senator Michael Baumgartner to extend right to work protections will likely be introduced when the legislature meets in Olympia next January.
Wisconsin’s attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, says he plans to bring remaining legal challenges against Act 10 before the state supreme court, where he expects the workplace freedom law will be upheld again.