Attorneys for Maysteel Industries and the union at its Allenton facility are seeking to move a case alleging it violated Wisconsin’s right-to-work law to federal court, arguing the claims made by a group of employees are actually federal questions.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this month by a group of 10 employees, alleges the company and union violated the state’s right-to-work law by deducting union dues as a condition of employment. The two sides signed a new collective bargaining agreement March 18, 2015 when the new law had gone into effect March 11. The company and union contend the agreement was actually entered into on March 2.
The plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation. The lawsuit was filed in Washington County Circuit Court and names Maysteel Industries LLC and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 10 and Lodge 2053 as defendants.
Attorneys for the company and union filed a notice of removal with the U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin on Thursday. The filing contends that because the case involves whether union dues were deducted without authorization and the origination of a collective bargaining agreement, the claims fall under the federal Labor Management Relations Act.
The case will now move to federal court, but the plaintiffs will have an opportunity to challenge the move. A federal judge would then hear arguments on whether the claims are federal questions.
“Our staff attorneys are reviewing this development,” said Patrick Semmens, National Right to Work Foundation vice president. “We stand by our commitment to defend this egregious abuse of the Wisconsin right to work law.”
The company and union filings also include an answer to the employees’ claims. The defendants repeatedly deny backdating the collective bargaining agreement and also say the lawsuit “mischaracterized what the text of the agreement states.”
The previous collective bargaining agreement expired March 4, 2015.
The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs were told March 9 by their supervisor and March 10 by the human resources department that the company and union were still working out details and the contract would not be signed until March 18.
The company and union contend in their filings that the new agreement “was formed by offer and acceptance on March 2.”
The filing also argues the right-to-work law amounts to “an unconstitutional taking of the property of Defendants District 10 and Lodge 2053 and hence is unenforceable.” It also says it is frivolous and barred by the statute of limitations.
The company and union ask for the complete dismissal of the case and for the award of costs and attorney fees.