Federal judge blocks Idaho anti-union law

Federal judge blocks Idaho anti-union law

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Idaho [official website] has issued a preliminary injunction [ruling text, PDF] blocking the enforcement of an Idaho anti-union law [SB 1007] that bans a union program that subsidizes employment for its members. The law, called the Fairness in Contracting Act, prohibits union programs used by construction workers unions that pool portions of union wages on a voluntary basis to subsidize union labor to enable union members to be hired at the collectively bargained salary. The plaintiffs, Idaho Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO and Southwest Idaho Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, representing building tradesmen use such a system to keep the cost of using union workers competitive with non-union laborers. Idaho passed the law pursuant to the federal Right to Work Act which Congress has explicitly exempted from the preemption by federal law. But the unions argued that that the Fairness in Contracting Act was beyond the Right to Work Act conflicting with collective bargaining rights and preempted by the National Labor Relations Act. Judge B Lynn Winmill agreed:

Time and time again, the Supreme Court has reiterated that the NLRB should serve as the principal arbiter of labor disputes. Thus the Court sees no justification for a court to abandon consideration of the threshold question, which is whether the matter at issue is peripheral to the concerns of the NLRA or a matter of particular local concern. This would require the Court to discard more than half a century of federal policy that places exclusive jurisdiction over issues of national labor relations in the hands of the agency created by Congress to deal with them. Absent more explicit direction from Congress or the Supreme Court, the Court sees no reason to do so.

The Fairness in Contracting Act was passed with heavy Republican support despite warnings [AP report] from the Idaho Attorney General’s office [official website] that it was based on shaky legal ground. It was set to take effect on July 1.

Anti-union fervor has been spreading among state legislatures. Last month, 10 Wisconsin unions filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website] challenging the state’s new collective bargaining law. The lawsuit alleges that the Budget Repair Bill [Senate Bill 11 text, PDF] violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments [texts]. According to the plaintiffs, the bill discriminates among groups of public employees and eliminates basic union rights, like bargaining, organizing and associating. Phil Neuenfeldt, president of Wisconsin State AFL-CIO [official website], condemned Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker [official website] for implementing the law and described the law as unconstitutional: “Not only have Scott Walker and his deep-pocketed corporate allies sought to silence the voices of Wisconsin workers, they have also violated those workers constitutional rights.”