In a huge win for organized labor and unions across the nation, a Dane County Judge just ruled that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s notorious “right-to-work” law is unconstitutional. Union leaders argued that the law is an “unconstitutional seizure of their property” because it allows workers to enjoy union benefits without paying dues, stripping the labor organizations of important sources of funding, which is an undue burden on the organizations.
Judge Willam Foust ruled that the “plaintiffs will be obligated to spend treasury — their property — on services for which they cannot legally request compensation. This is enough to establish that unions do have a legally protectable property interest at stake…they are not isolated, and the impact of Act 1 over time is threatening to the unions’ very economic viability.”
Republicans erupted in fury at the news, echoing common conservative complaints that the Judge was “legislating from the bench,” as they do every time a court rules against them. “Once again a liberal Dane County judge is trying to legislate from the bench. No one should be forced to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. I’m confident that this decision will be reversed in a higher court and worker freedom will prevail” said Rep. Robert Vos.
Free-market acolytes attempt to sell right-to-work laws as beneficial for workers and for business, but the facts paint a very different picture. In America’s twenty-five right-to-work states, the average worker makes $5,971 (or 12.2%) less than in union-friendly states; median household income is $6,568 (or 11.8%) less. Right-to-work states have higher rates of uninsured workers, have higher rates of poverty, higher infant mortality rates. and have a 54% higher rate of workplace fatalities.
This is a monumental decision that with luck will spiral into other states and uplift organized labor. Our unions helped win the Second World War and propelled the postwar economic boom; they helped make this country great and only by taking power out of the hands of the oligarchs and returning it to the workers can we reverse the decline of the middle class.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.