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Federal Union Protection Laws Could Penalize Wisconsin

Federal laws designed to protect unions add yet another wrinkle to the Wisconsin standoff.

HuffPo's Sam Stein ("Gov. Walker Informed That Bill Targeting Unions May Cost State $46 Million in State Funds"): 

Budget referees and transportation officials in Wisconsin have informed Gov. Scott Walker (R) that if he were to pass his controversial anti-union legislation into law, he could be forfeiting tens of millions of dollars in federal funds for transportation.

Under an obscure provision of federal labor law, states risk losing federal funds should they eliminate "collective bargaining rights" that existed at the time when federal assistance was first granted. The provision, known as "protective arrangements" or "Section 13C arrangements," is meant as a means of cushioning union (and even some non-union) members who, while working on local projects, are affected by federal grants.

It also could potentially hamstring governors like Walker who want dramatic changes to labor laws in their states. Wisconsin received $74 million in federal transit funds this fiscal year. Of that, $46.6 million would be put at risk should the collective-bargaining bill come to pass — in the process creating an even more difficult fiscal situation than the one that, ostensibly, compelled Walker to push the legislation in the first place.

Clearly, a legacy of decades of Democratic control of Congress. I'm surprised these provisions weren't stricken from the books during the Republican era between 1995 and 2007.

It's simply bizarre that the Federal government would regulate collective bargaining at the state level — particularly in a way that penalizes states that have more generous protections. Typically, federal regulations provide a national baseline. Here, though, Wisconsin would be penalized for moving from one level of protection for its state employees to another level that's still higher than those of many non-penalized states.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Tlaloc says:

    You're right, we should have a constituional amendment protecting the right to collective bargaining in all states instead of a mish mash of local levels of protection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  2. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    @Tlaloc:
    Given that 2/3 of the states would have to ratify any amendment, I don't see that happening.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. sam says:

    “It’s simply bizarre that the Federal government would regulate collective bargaining at the state level”

    Really? Taft–Hartley Act?

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  4. wr says:

    Boy, if Walker actually cared about the budget, he might have considered this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Tlaloc says:

    “Given that 2/3 of the states would have to ratify any amendment, I don’t see that happening.”

    Neither do I, but then the right thing is hardly ever popular.

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