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Wisconsin Right to Work Laws

The Badger State was built on hard work and industry. From our dairy farms to our paper mills, Wisconsinites work hard for our bosses and our selves. But the employer-employee relationship isn’t always an easy one, especially recently, and in many cases unions have acted on behalf of workers when negotiating with management. In the past few years many states -- including Wisconsin -- have passed laws affecting the way unions, employees, and employers interact. This is a quick introduction what are known as "right-to-work" laws.

Right to Work Laws

About half the states have enacted "right-to-work" laws in the past few years. These regulations prohibit employers and unions from requiring the payment of monthly dues from non-union members at unionized worksites. These funds are used to offset the cost of representation and collective bargaining, which are available to both union and non-union employees.

Right to Work Statutes in Wisconsin

Wisconsin passed a right to work law in 2015, signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker. The law is similar to those passed in other states.

Code Section

Wisconsin Code 111.04, et seq.

Policy on Union Membership, Organization, etc.

No person may require, as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment, an individual to do any of the following:

  1. Refrain or resign from membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of a labor organization.*
  2. Become or remain a member of a labor organization.*
  3. Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges or expenses of any kind or amount, or provide anything of value, to a labor organization.
  4. Pay to any 3rd party an amount that is in place of, equivalent to, or any portion of dues, fees, assessments, or other charges or expenses required of members of, or employees represented by, a labor organization.

*These already are prohibited under federal labor law.

Prohibited Activity

Employers and unions may not require non-union employees at unionized worksites to pay monthly dues to cover the costs of union activities.

Any violation of this law is considered an "unfair labor practice."

As they are applied in other states, right-to-work laws control the contracts between employees, employers, and unions by preventing employers from requiring existing employees to join a union or pay union dues or excluding non-union workers in the first place. Most right-to-work laws are relatively new, and about half the states have some version of the law on the books. Because it is a recent trend (and because some right-to-work laws are still entangled in court litigation) the overall impact of the laws on union membership, wages, and collective bargaining agreements is yet to be determined. Unions have universally opposed right-to-work laws, while business interests have lobbied heavily in favor of them.

Wisconsin Right to Work Laws: Related Resources

Since Wisconsin has a right to work law, workers at unionized work sites will want to know their rights and weigh their options. You can visit FindLaw’s Employee Rights Center for more articles and resources on this topic. You can also contact a Wisconsin labor attorney if you would like legal assistance with an employment or union matter.

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