U.S. appeals court upholds Wisconsin 'right-to-work' law

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday upheld Wisconsin’s so-called right-to-work law, which bars mandatory union membership and prohibits unions and employers from requiring non-members to pay dues.

The plaintiffs did not provide “any compelling reason” for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to revisit an earlier ruling upholding a right-to-work law in a similar case in Indiana, Judge Joel Flaum wrote.

Flaum was joined by Judge Michael Kanne and Judge Frank Easterbrook in the unanimous decision.

Two local affiliates of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) had argued that Wisconsin’s law violates U.S. labor laws and a portion of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by preventing unions from collecting payment for services they are legally required to provide to non-members.

In September, U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller, citing a 2014 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld Indiana’s similar right-to-work law, dismissed the lawsuit. The plaintiffs appealed to the 7th Circuit Court.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel welcomed Wednesday’s ruling, saying in a statement, “The decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirms what we have argued since this law was enacted in 2015, that right-to-work is constitutional.

“The Constitution does not protect a union’s right to take money from non-union members and I’m proud to have defended the rule of law in Wisconsin.”

The IUOE expected the ruling, said union attorney Scott Kronland, but maintains the decision was incorrect.

“It is fundamentally unfair for the unions to be required to provide services for free and the unions expect that their position will eventually be vindicated,” he said in a statement.

The union is still considering its next step, Kronland said.

Wednesday’s decision comes as an increasing number of U.S. states, particularly those with Republican-controlled legislatures, are enacting right-to-work laws.

In February, Missouri became the 28th state to pass right-to-work legislation, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, who emerged as a leading union antagonist during a 2011 fight over legislation to roll back public employee collective bargaining rights, had championed the state’s right-to-work law.

When it was enacted in 2015 it drew thousands of protesters to Madison, the state capitol.

Editing by Patrick Enright and Bill Trott