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Judge rules state's right-to-work law is unconstitutional

A judge struck down Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, which prohibits businesses and unions from making agreements that require all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues.

Three unions filed a suit challenging the law shortly after Gov. Scott Walker approved it in March 2015. The unions argued that the law allowed for unconstitutional seizure of union property, since it forced unions to extend benefits to workers who don’t pay dues.

Dane County Circuit Judge agreed, adding in his decision that “the impact of (the law) over time is threatening to the unions’ very economic viability.”

Although 24 other states have right-to-work laws and none has been struck down on the grounds he cited, Foust said he was not obligated to follow other rulings because each state has a different constitution. Last year, Foust declined to put the right-to-work law on hold pending his decision.

Walker, who once said he had no plans to enact such a law, touted the state’s passage of right-to-work as one of his proudest achievements while stumping for the Republican presidential nomination during his brief, ill-fated run.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican, promised to appeal the decision and said he was confident it would not stand, The Associated Press reported. Schimel has not made a decision on whether to seek an immediate suspension of the ruling while the appeal is pending, according to AP.

Walker dismissed the decision, sending out a tweet that said, “We are confident Wisconsin’s freedom-to-work law is constitutional and will ultimately be upheld.”

Conservatives hold a 5–2 majority on the state’s Supreme Court. All five in the majority are loyal to Walker and the state’s Republican leadership. On April 5, Walker-appointed Justice Rebecca Bradley won re-election to a 10-year term on on the bench with the help of the Republican Party and an estimated $2.5 million from corporate super PACs that support Walker and Wisconsin’s GOP.

“Once again, a liberal Dane County judge is trying to legislate from the bench,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in a statement following the ruling. “No one should be forced to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.”

Walker said the right-to-work law would stimulate job growth in the state, but last year more than 10,000 Wisconsin workers were laid off — the largest number since Walker took office.

“The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest quarterly jobs numbers found Wisconsin now ranks 40th in private-sector job growth over the past four years, dead last among the 10 Midwest states,” said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca in a statement to the press.

He and other Wisconsin Democrats praised the ruling as a victory for middle- and working-class residents of the state.

“The extreme right-wing Republican agenda has been incredibly harmful to working people and businesses in Wisconsin,” Barca said in the statement. “Middle class Wisconsin workers are in crisis and so-called ‘right to work’ laws have been shown to drive down wages and economic growth.”

“Just over a year ago, at the committee hearing on the damaging right-to-work scheme, Republicans abruptly shut down debate, silenced the voices of those who waited for hours to be heard, and forced a vote on a bill that diminishes worker health and safety and increases poverty,” said Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson noted in a statement.

“At a time when Walker and legislative Republicans are choosing corporate profiteering and special interests over protecting the rights of our neighbors, today’s court decision restores the voice of the majority of the people in Wisconsin who know that right-to-work laws are wrong for Wisconsin.”

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