More than a year after Wisconsin became a right-to-work state, a Dane County judge has overturned the law.
The decision released Friday comes out of a lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and other unions, which argued the law signed in March of 2015 amounts to an unconstitutional taking of property. Right-to-work laws prohibit companies from making union membership a condition of employment, although unions argue they still have to represent those who choose not to pay dues in negotations. In his decision, Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust agreed with that reasoning.
In a statement, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said “We are extremely disappointed that the Dane County Circuit Court struck down Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, but we are confident the law will be upheld on appeal.”
In a statement, Governor Scott Walker said “We are confident Wisconsin’s freedom-to-work law is constitutional and will ultimately be upheld.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) blasted the decision, arguing that “once again a liberal Dane County judge is trying to legislate from the bench. No one should be forced to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. I’m confident that this decision will be reversed in a higher court and worker freedom will prevail.”
Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt praised the decision, saying it put a “needed check” on the governor’s attacks on working families. “Right to Work goes against the Wisconsin principles of fairness and democracy and hurts all of Wisconsin by eroding the strength of our middle class. Right to Work has always been unjust, now it’s proven unconstitutional.”
Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) called the ruling a “victory” for workers’ rights. “Middle class Wisconsin workers are in crisis and so-called ‘Right to Work’ laws have been shown to drive down wages and economic growth. The extreme right-wing Republican agenda has been incredibly harmful to working people and businesses in Wisconsin,” the Kenosha Democrat said in a statement.
As for whether the state will seek a stay pending an appeal, a DOJ spokesman would only say they are currently “reviewing the decision and analyzing our options at this point.”