Unions may now negotiate so-called “fair share” fees from nonunion employees after a Dane County judge struck down the state’s right-to-work law, a union official said Monday.
Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, said Monday unions can begin to collect that money after they negotiate language about fair-share fees in collective bargaining agreements.
But Attorney General Brad Schimel said Monday that because a final order in the case has not been approved by Judge William Foust, it’s too soon to determine whether the ruling applies to all unions or only unions represented in the lawsuit. Moreover, Schimel said Friday he would ask Foust to put his ruling on hold pending appeal.
Fair-share fees are dues paid by nonunion employees who are represented by unions, and Bloomingdale said the union’s position is that they are a mandatory subject of bargaining.
Those fees typically are the cost to the union for representing those employees and do not include money that pays for unions’ political activity.
“It is up to individual bargaining units to make the decision with their employers about their fair-share clauses in their contracts,” said Bloomingdale.
“If there are people that are bargaining a contract right now, they are free to insert a fair-share clause into their agreement.
“It is no longer illegal in the state of Wisconsin to negotiate over their fair-share agreements,” she added.
Attorneys representing the state AFL-CIO, the United Steel Workers and the International Association of Machinists plan to file a proposed order on a ruling Foust issued Friday that struck down the state’s right-to-work law on grounds that unions were not being compensated for services they were providing.
The right-to-work law was enacted in 2015 and prohibits unions and employers from entering into agreements that require all employees to pay fees to a union, either in the form of membership dues or fair-share payments for those who opt out of joining a union but are still represented by it.
The group of private-sector unions sued the state, arguing state and federal law require unions to provide collective bargaining services to all employees in a represented workplace, whether or not the employees pay union dues.
That made the state’s right-to-work law an illegal “taking” of their services, they argued.
Foust agreed, writing that under the various labor laws and the right-to-work law “a free-rider problem is born — the ability of nonmembers to refuse to pay for something unions are compelled to provide by law.”
During a status conference Monday, union attorneys agreed to file a proposed final order by Tuesday and state Department of Justice attorneys agreed to respond by Wednesday.
Schimel said Friday that he plans to ask Foust to stay his own decision and ultimately will appeal.
Schimel said it was possible that his office would bypass the appeals court and ask the state Supreme Court to take an appeal of Foust’s decision directly. “Some of that depends on what the judge’s final order looks like,” he said.
Schimel on Friday said that his office was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling and that he was “confident the law will be upheld on appeal.”
“We’re prepared for a hard road ahead,” Bloomingdale said.
Reporter Matthew DeFour contributed to this report.