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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 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 membership in order to get and keep a job. Thus far, Wisconsin has decided not to introduce such laws.

Right to Work Statutes in Wisconsin

In 2013, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said that his administration had no interest in pursuing state-wide right-to-work legislation. This is mostly due to previous reforms which effectively applied right-to-work rules to state employees. Previously, Wisconsin would automatically deduct union dues from public sector employees. Under Walker’s reforms, employees are instead permitted to opt out of being a union member. Wisconsin has a low percentage of unionized private-sector employees, and these reforms have applied to the majority of employee-union contexts. Therefore, the state is not currently trying to pass a more universal right-to-work law.

Code Section

No statutory provisions

Policy on Union Membership, Organization, etc.

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Prohibited Activity

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Penalties

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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

While Wisconsin doesn’t currently have a right-to-work law, that is subject to change. 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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