Wisconsin promises to seek stay of right-to-work ruling

AP News
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Posted: Apr 11, 2016 6:49 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — State attorneys will seek an immediate stay of a ruling striking down Wisconsin's Republican-authored right-to-work law as soon as a judge signs off on a formal order solidifying the decision, Attorney General Brad Schimel promised Monday.

Schimel told reporters in Madison that the state Justice Department wants the law to remain while the agency pursues an appeal.

Right-to-work laws prohibit businesses and unions from reaching agreements that require all workers in a company, not just union members, to pay union dues. Half the states have such laws. Gov. Scott Walker signed a right-to-work bill into law in Wisconsin early last year.

Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Machinists Local Lodge 1061 and United Steelworkers District 2 filed a lawsuit in March 2015 alleging the law amounts to an unconstitutional seizure of union property since they now must extend benefits to workers who don't pay dues. Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust agreed on Friday, striking the law down.

The three unions that challenged the law plan to submit a proposed final order to Foust on Tuesday. DOJ attorneys were expected to file a response on Wednesday. It wasn't clear when the judge might enter the final order.

Schimel said DOJ lawyers were reviewing whether to appeal to an appellate court or ask the state Supreme Court to take the case. Conservative-leaning justices control the court 5-2.

The unions' attorney, Fred Perillo, said he wasn't surprised Schimel was seeking a stay and appeal, but that he believes Foust's decision was sound.

Paul Secunda, who directs the labor and employment law program at Marquette University, predicted the Supreme Court would overturn Foust.

"Right-to-work will maintain itself in Wisconsin," Secunda said.

Even as Schimel warned of legal roadblocks ahead, union leaders said Monday that Foust's ruling means local chapters are again free to enter into negotiations with employers over whether all workers should pay for union representation.

"What happens now is the same thing that happened before," said Stephanie Bloomingdale, Wisconsin AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer. "That means union workers and their employers can negotiate fair-share agreements in their contacts."

Michael Bolton, the steelworkers District 2 director, said some of that union's local chapters inserted language in their collective bargaining agreements saying if right-to-work was overturned that all workers would have to pay if the agreement required that before right-to-work went into effect.

"We're living with the law as the courts say it should be applied," Bolton said.

No contact information could be found for Machinists Local Lodge 1061. Messages left at the Milwaukee Labor Council, an umbrella organization that includes the lodge and dozens of other local union chapters, weren't immediately returned.

Walker, who touted the right-to-work law during his brief bid for the GOP presidential nomination last summer, told reporters after the bill signing that he was confident the law would be upheld and hoped Foust's ruling would be stayed.

"I certainly think it would be good for workers," the governor said.

Schimel told reporters that it's unclear whether Foust's ruling applies to all unions or just the three that brought the lawsuit. Perillo, the unions' attorney, called that argument disingenuous. He said the order would clarify that Foust's decision applies to all unions.

"If the law is unconstitutional for someone," he said, "it's unconstitutional for everyone."

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Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.