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U.S. appeals court rejects latest challenge to Wisconsin union law

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Friday rejected the latest challenge to a Wisconsin law that restricts the power of public-sector unions.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled against public employee unions that represent workers for the city of Madison and Dane County.

In January 2013, the same court ruled against other unions, including the Wisconsin Education Association Council, in another case that raised similar objections.

The controversial law, called Act 10, triggered an unsuccessful effort to recall the state's Republican Governor, Scott Walker. The legislation prevents public sector workers, known as "general employees," from collective bargaining on issues other than base wages, imposes tough recertification requirements and bars employers from automatically deducting union dues from paychecks.

The unions raised several constitutional objections, including that the law violates their right to petition the government and their right to free association under the First Amendment.

The court said there is no legal precedent saying the right to petition gives unions a constitutional right to collective bargaining. Likewise, Judge Joel Flaum wrote in the majority opinion, unions do not have a free association right to engage in negotiations.

"The unions cannot wield the First Amendment to force Wisconsin to engage in a dialogue or continue the state's previous policies," Flaum wrote.

The case is Laborers Local 236 v. Walker, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 13-3193.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)