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GOP lawmakers move to intervene in Local 139 lawsuit over Act 10

Republican leadership in the state Legislature plan to intervene in a legal challenge of the state’s well-known Act 10 law to contest arguments made by two labor unions that argue the law curtailing collective bargaining also limits their free-speech rights.

GOP legislative leaders said they will move on Monday to intervene in the suit, which the International Union of Operating Engineers locals 139 and 420 filed earlier this month. The lawsuit is an amended version of a challenge that the labor unions brought, and later dropped, last year as they awaited the outcome of a Supreme Court ruling they argued could have deflated parts of Act 10, a signature law of former Gov. Scott Walker, also a Republican.

According to a statement from State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, GOP leaders will intervene in the case to protect Act 10. The high-profile law is among various laws that were signed by Walker and are widely perceived as attacks on unions. It has been challenged and upheld in court on more than one occasion. The latest suit names as defendants newly elected Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats, and James Daley, chairman of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.

“We aren’t picking this fight – once again a liberal group is trying to change laws that have been passed by the Legislature and previously upheld by the courts,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “We cannot sit idly by and allow our attorney general or governor an opportunity to undermine Act 10, and will seek to intervene in this case accordingly to make sure that the law is upheld.”

Republicans noted in a statement that Evers said he wanted to repeal Act 10 while he was campaigning against Walker and that Locals 139 and 420 contributed thousands to his and Kaul’s campaigns last year. The two unions represent about 10,000 workers in Wisconsin combined.

Locals 139 and 420 argue that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees could change the implications of Act 10. In the Janus case, the Supreme Court found unions that required nonmembers to provide support payments were violating those employees’ free-speech rights.

The unions argue that courts’ current interpretations of Act 10 have imposed free-speech restrictions on how they deal with municipalities and how votes in labor-union elections are counted. They contend courts should have to re-examine the law now that the Janus decision is an established precedent. The suit also argues Act 10 undermines freedom of association rights by preventing union members from deducting union dues from their wages.

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