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Federal appeals court upholds Wisconsin 'right to work' law

[JURIST] A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] upheld [opinion] Wisconsin's right to work law [statute] on Wednesday. This law says that unions cannot force workers to "[b]ecome or remain a member of a labor organization [or]... Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges or expenses of any kind or amount, or provide anything of value, to a labor organization." The plaintiffs, two branches of the International Union of Operating Engineers [union website], claimed [Reuters report] that the law violated the Fifth Amendment because unions could not collect payment for services they were still required to perform even if a worker was not a member. The panel affirmed the lower court's decision that the Wisconsin law was constitutional because a similar Indiana law had previously been ruled constitutional.

Right to work laws have caused significant legal controversy in the US within the past few years. In May a union sought an injunction [JURIST report] on a Kentucky right to work law. The Kentucky House of Representatives passed [JURIST report] the right-to-work bill in January. Currently, 28 states have right to work laws [JURIST backgrounder]. The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in January 2016 on the First Amendment rights of public school teachers who do not wish to pay union fees, leading to a plurality decision [JURIST reports].

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