WI Judge deals unions a setback in dues collections

The same US District Court judge, William Conley, struck down parts of Governor Scott Walker's union reform bill last March, including a provision that would have forced unions to recertify every year by getting a majority of members to vote in favor.

But this important decision - forcing union members to "opt in" to having their dues deducted rather than the union's preference for an "opt out" clause - will force unions to be more responsive to members.


What was decided Friday was how the state would arrange for dues deductions for those who join the unions until the appeals court rules on the matter.

Attorneys for the unions urged an opt-out system that would have presumed all employees who belonged to a state union would have their dues deducted if they had done so before the new law limiting collective bargaining was implemented. But Conley sided with the state and ordered that they use an opt-in system, by which those who belong to a union must submit new forms telling the state to deduct their dues from their paychecks.

The state wanted employees to have the ability to cancel their dues deductions at any time, but Conley agreed to allow the unions to have members commit to a year of dues deduction at a time. That matches the system in place for a law enforcement union that did not have its collective-bargaining power taken away by the new law, and was thus appropriate, the judge said.

But his rulings were limited because they affect only the small number of unions that were recertified. Many unions either could not get enough votes to recertify or did not try to recertify, in part because of the new, high barrier for recertifying.

Conley in March ruled those unions were improperly decertified, and he said Friday he believed they should be put back in place. But he added that the matter is up to the appeals court, not him, saying he would not rule on allowing dues deductions for the decertified unions. He left open the ability of the unions to make the case for allowing such deductions at a future hearing.

Surprisingly, Wisconsin voters are not basing their decision to recall Scott Walker on the collective bargaining bill. It will be jobs and the economy that will decide the recall, despite millions of dollars being spent by labor unions and liberal activists to make collective bargaining reform into a campaign issue.

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