Wisconsin Judge Rules that Workers’ Wages are Unions’ Property

On Friday, April 8, a Wisconsin judge handed unions a surprising victory—surprising because of the argument behind his decision.

Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust agreed with the argument made by three unions challenging Wisconsin’s right-to-work law that the law is an unconstitutional taking of union property because unions are required to represent people who opt out of joining the union and paying union dues.

Right to work is not an unconstitutional taking because unions choose to become exclusive representatives. The duty of fair representation is one that unions impose on themselves. Private-sector unions may act as members-only unions and choose not to represent non-members.

In addition, unions receive something of value as exclusive representatives—employers are forced to bargain with them. So even if a union that acts as an exclusive representative were required to represent non-members, the law gives them something of value for doing so. 

A similar challenge was struck down by the Indiana Supreme Court. Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said he plans to appeal the ruling. Moreover, no other state court has ever struck down a right-to-work law.  He should, and rightly should prevail, given Foust’s nonsensical ruling.  

See more CEI research on right-to-work laws: An Interstate Analysis of Right-to-Work Laws.