FOUNDATION ACTION: Indiana and Wisconsin Right to Work Protections Upheld in Federal Court 

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Indiana and Wisconsin Right to Work Protections Upheld in Federal Court

Foundation attorneys help thwart bogus union legal challenges to recent labor reforms  

Wisconsin teacher Kristi Lacroix successfully defended Wisconsin’s public sector Right to Work law with the help of Foundation staff attorneys. SPRINGFIELD, VA - In the span of two days, Foundation attorneys scored resounding victories defending Indiana’s newly-enacted Right to Work law and Wisconsin’s 2010 public sector Right to Work law in two federal courts.

The legal victories both highlight the need and the success of the Foundation’s litigation program.

Indiana union bosses soundly defeated in court

A United States District Court Judge dismissed a federal lawsuit challenging Indiana’s Right to Work law filed by International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 150 lawyers. IUOE Local 150, headquartered in suburban Chicago, filed the lawsuit to undo what thousands of Hoosier citizens worked hard to achieve through the legislative process immediately after the law was enacted last February.

Unfortunately for the IUOE, the constitutionality of state Right to Work laws has long been a settled question. And National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, representing four Indiana workers who support the Right to Work law, advised lawyers for the State of Indiana about arguments that were made to defend the law in court.

The four Hoosier citizens who opposed the union’s legal challenge were David Bercot, a certified wastewater operator for the ITR Concession Company in Fort Wayne; Joel Tibbetts, a Minteq International assistant manager in Valparaiso; Douglas Richards, an employee with the Goshen-based Cequent Towing Products; and Larry Getts, a Dana Holding Corporation technician in Albion.

Judge Philip Simon dismissed all of the union lawyers’ claims. He did not rule on arguments contesting the law on the grounds that it violates Indiana’s constitution, leaving that to state courts to decide. A United Steel Workers legal challenge based on state laws is still proceeding in Indiana state court, where two other Foundation-assisted employees have filed a brief arguing that the law is consistent with their state’s constitution.

“We’re happy to report that the judge rejected IUOE union bosses’ frivolous arguments and ensured that millions of Indianans will continue to work free from union coercion,” said Patrick Semmens, Vice President of National Right to Work.

Wisconsin public sector Right to Work law stands

A day after the Indiana victory, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit based in Chicago upheld all of Governor Scott Walker’s public sector unionism reform measures, also known as “Act 10.”

The court rejected union lawyers’ attempts to strike down the law’s annual union recertification requirements, ban on the use of taxpayer funded-payroll systems to collect union dues, new limits on the scope of what union officials can demand in contract negotiations, and a provision that granted most of Wisconsin’s public employees Right to Work protections.

With free legal assistance from Foundation and Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty attorneys, three Wisconsin public employees moved to intervene in the lawsuit in favor of the law after lawyers from seven unions, led by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, challenged it in federal court.

The three civil servants -- Kenosha teacher Kristi Lacroix, Waukesha high school teacher Nathan Berish, and trust fund specialist at the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds Ricardo Cruz -- were permitted to file amicus briefs in the district court and their Foundation attorney was allowed to argue on the merits of the law before the appeals court during a hearing.

“The appellate court upheld all of ‘Act 10’ as constitutional by relying on principles established in Foundation-supported Supreme Court victories. Those cases hold that union bosses have no constitutional power to force workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Unions also don’t have a constitutional right to use government resources to deduct union dues or fees from workers’ paychecks,” said Semmens.

“The court’s decision strikes a mighty blow for individual workers who do not want anything to do with an unwanted union in their workplace. The text of the decision makes it clear that legal arguments presented by Foundation staff attorneys were critical to the ruling.”

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