On July 12, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a Wisconsin right-to-work law after two chapters of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) filed a lawsuit against the state.

The law, 2015 Wisconsin Act 1, prohibits business and unions from working together to require all workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The IUOE claimed the law was unconstitutional and allows nonunion employees to receive free representation in negotiations.

The original case, International Union of Operating Engineers v. Schimel, No. 16-3834 (7th Cir. 2017), was argued in September, 2016, before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, which ruled in favor of the state. Now the court of appeals has affirmed the decision of the district court, stating the plaintiffs made a case almost identical to a previous ruling that did not favor the union.

According to the court of appeals, the decision followed a similar case in Indiana, Sweeney v. Pence, 767 F.3d 654 (7th Cir. 2014), in which the court decided that Indiana’s 2012 right-to-work law did not violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and remained law.

The quick decision by the court of appeals, however, leaves the union plaintiffs with various options to challenge the recent ruling. Options for the union include submitting an en banc review of the precedent set in Sweeney v. Pence, where a closer examination from all of the 7th Circuit judges could lead to a different decision, or taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed Act 3, which ensures fair and open competition on local, state and state-assisted construction projects by prohibiting anti-competitive and costly government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs). The legislature is also considering a full repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law, which was reformed in 2015 with the passage of S.B. 339.

According to ABC’s latest Merit Shop Scorecard rankings,  Wisconsin’s construction business environment ranked 21st in the country in 2016 but will likely improve when the 2017 scorecard is released following reforms enacted this year. The meritshopscorecard.org website reviews and grades state-specific policies and information significant to the success of the commercial and industrial construction industry, including prevailing wage, PLA mandates, right-to-work status, the construction job growth rate, commitment to developing a well-trained workforce, career and technical education (CTE) opportunities and results and the use of public-private partnerships (P3s).