A group of 10 employees at Maysteel Industries are alleging the company and the union representing employees at its Allenton plant have been violating Wisconsin’s right-to-work law since it went into effect last year.
The group is being represented by attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation. The lawsuit, which was filed in Washington County Circuit Court, and a complaint with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission were filed Tuesday. The documents name Maysteel Industries LLC and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 10 and Lodge 2053 as defendants.
Calls and emails to the company, district and lodge seeking comment were not immediately returned. Maysteel is a metal fabrication company that specializes in sheet metal enclosures.
The lawsuit says the company and union had a collective bargaining agreement in place from March 5, 2012 until March 4, 2015. That contract had a provision requiring employees to pay union dues as a condition of their employment. The lawsuit says all but one of the plaintiffs were not members of the union and had objected to the union’s political and non-bargaining expenditures, although eventually they all did.
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.
Wisconsin’s right-to-work law went into effect March 11 and the plaintiffs sent letters to the defendants on March 13 and March 14 stating that the new law would apply to any new collective bargaining agreement.
The new agreement was signed March 18, according to the lawsuit, but the effective date was listed as March 5. The new contract included language requiring employees to pay union dues as a condition of their employment.
The plaintiffs received letters dated April 29 from the District 10 business representative indicating the new law wouldn’t apply at Maysteel until March 2018.
“This requires you to pay your fair share of the union’s costs as a condition of employment,” the letter says. “I regret that someone apparently misled you.”
The letter goes on to say that if they would choose to make the payment themselves, instead of having payroll deductions, they would be obligated to pay on time each month.
“If you fail to make timely payments, we would have no choice but to initiate the process for your termination from Maysteel,” the letter said.
The lawsuit asks the court to rule that the company and union violated the right-to-work law, give the plaintiffs the money paid in dues under the new contract back and bar the company and union from terminating any employee for failure to pay their dues.