Menards in Winona, Minnesota.

It's no secret that John Menard is opposed to unions. But the Progressive magazine has obtained a copy of a contract agreement between Menard's home-improvement store chain and managers that enshrines the billionaire's anti-union stance in company policy.

The Progressive published a story Tuesday with wording from the contract that threatens Menards store managers with a 60-percent pay cut if they allow employees to vote in a union.

Here's the actual wording of the provision:

 “The Manager’s income shall be automatically reduced by sixty percent (60%) of what it would have been if a union of any type is recognized within your particular operation during the term of this Agreement. If a union wins an election during this time, your income will automatically be reduced by sixty percent (60%).”

The contract was passed to Progressive by a management employee on the condition of anonymity, associate editor Bill Lueders writes.

The contract isn't exactly a surprise. Other publications have referred to the 60-percent pay cut threat since at least as early as 2003. And in 2007 a Milwaukee Magazine story cited a former store manager who said he had to attend a union-fighting seminar in Eau Claire, home of the more than 280-store chain. 

But the threat's inclusion in a contract agreement raises potential legal issues. 

Carin Clauss, emeritus professor of law at the UW-Madison and former U.S. Solicitor of Labor, told Lueders that the company could face a valid legal challenge were a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board because it's illegal to “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees” who are exercising their union rights. 

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"You can interfere with employees by threatening a third party,” she said.

Others called the contract provision just plain wrong. 

“What this encourages is for supervisors to not in any way identify with employees’ shared concerns,”said Harris Freeman, an expert in labor law at Western New England University's School of Law.

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.