Hands Off — Judge rules Wisconsin public union members must opt in on dues

In a blow to Big Labor’s continual push to make forced unionism the default position, unions will now have to ask people to sign up rather than require employees to figure out how to protect their paychecks from unwanted union confiscation.

From Pioneer Press’ Patrick Marley

MADISON, Wisconsin — State unions were dealt a setback Friday when a federal judge said they would have to get their members to opt in, rather than opt out, to having the state deduct union dues from their paychecks.

What’s more, the judge did not rule on dues deductions for unions that he earlier found the state improperly decertified. The state’s largest unions were decertified, and the ruling — at least for now — will make it harder for them to get money from dues.

But U.S. District Court Judge William Conley gave unions one beneficial ruling by saying that members who sign up to have their dues deducted from their paychecks can be required to make a yearlong commitment.

Friday’s rulings came as part of a union challenge to a new law, championed by Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans.

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 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.

The lawsuit was brought by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, units of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and other unions in the federal court in Madison.


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