MacIver News Service

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON  – Right-to-work laws have done much to advance worker freedom in 28 states, including in Wisconsin. 

The laws have ended big labor’s lock on workers, ending forced union dues and prohibiting union membership as a condition of employment. 

But Right to Work doesn’t guarantee instant freedom from the shackles of big labor. 

In Wisconsin, for instance, United Steelworkers Local 2-482 makes workers wait up to 13 months before the union will stop grabbing dues from their paychecks.

That’s the subject of an ongoing legal battle led by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of Donald Dillabough, an employee at the Clearwater Paper Corp. plant in Neenah. 

In December, Dillabough emailed the SteelWorkers local informing officials there that he was resigning from the union and revoking his authorization for the union to automatically collect dues from his paycheck. Easy enough under Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, right? 

Wrong. 

Union officials denied the request. They claimed it was not submitted during the union’s self-created “window period.” The labor organization had established a 13-month waiting period in between windows in which employees are able to withdraw their membership, according to the foundation. 

Patrick Semmens, vice president of Public Information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said the prolonged waiting period is just one of many tricks unions have pulled in emerging right-to-work states like Wisconsin, which became the 25th state to adopt a worker freedom law more than three years ago.

“What we see are these union policies where they go, ‘Okay, you’re allowed to resign your union membership at any time, but you have to keep paying union dues, except when you revoke in this small, little window,” Semmens told MacIver News Service this week on the Vicki McKenna Show, on NewsTalk 1130 WISN. “This is something we are seeing all around the country.”

“It’s another example of the greed of union officials. Instead of focusing on supporting them voluntarily they end up often using legally dubious policies like this to simply trap them into paying,” Semmens added. 

MacIver News Service on several occasions attempted to contact Local 2-482 at its office in Oshkosh. Union officials could not be reached for comment.

In February, the Right To Work Foundation, on behalf of Dillabough, filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union alleging 13 months of forced union dues in a right-to-work state violates Dillabough rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, located in Milwaukee, declined to file a complaint against Local 2-482. 

An agency official declined to comment, noting that a formal determination to dismiss the case had been made and that further information would only be available through a Freedom of Information Act request. 

Dillabough has appealed to the NLRB’s general counsel, Peter Robb, who can overturn the decision not to prosecute the USW local for the union’s policy.

Semmens said the NLRB decision was disappointing but he is hopeful the review conducted by a Trump-appointed general counselwill determine “something wrong has taken place here.” 

“Even in states like Wisconsin, where union dues payments are by law supposed to be completely voluntary, union bosses frequently employ window period schemes in an attempt to trap workers into paying forced dues against their will,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix in a statement. “… In their zeal to seize forced dues for as long as possible, USW union officials have violated longstanding Labor Board precedent, and the General Counsel should defend Mr. Dillabough’s rights by initiating a prosecution against the USW for this illegal policy.”

M. D. KittleM.D. Kittle is an Investigative Reporter with the MacIver Institute. This article appears courtesy of the MacIver Institute.