On Monday morning, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed the “right to work” bill, which was passed by the Wisconsin State Assembly on Friday, March 6th. Governor Walker’s signature makes Wisconsin the 25th state to enact a “right to work” law. State “right to work” laws permit workers to choose not to join or pay fees to a union. Wisconsin’s law takes effect immediately, but collective bargaining agreements currently in place will not be impacted until it is time to extend, modify, or renew them.
Even if a business’s collective bargaining agreement with the union is not set to expire in the near future, it is still likely that that workers will have questions about how exactly the new law changes their rights. It will be important for businesses to educate their employees about workers’ new rights under right to work laws. Obviously, the new law does not eliminate unions, but it does give employees the choice of quitting a union, even if the union represents all other employees at the workplace, and now gives the employee the ability to choose not to pay union dues. If there is a current collective bargaining agreement, this new choice is subject to that agreement and may not be applicable where the CBA contains a union security clause and/or dues check-off clause. Going forward, it will be even more important for employers in negotiating sessions to watch for confusing language in dues authorization agreements to be presented to employees in conjunction with new, extended, modified, or renewed collective bargaining agreements to ensure that workers and businesses alike can take appropriate advantage of Wisconsin’s new “right to work” status.