Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission --
Summary of Wisconsin Court Decision relating to Unemployment Insurance

Jeffrey T. Vogt, et al (Hrg. No. 96606892MWG) v. State of Wisconsin, Labor and Industry Review Commission and The Illingworth Corporation,  Case 97-CV-007679 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Milwaukee Co., June 30, 1998)

Digest Codes:   LD 502  LD 510  LD 550

The employes were employed as sheet metal workers for the employer, a sheet metal fabricator. They were represented for purposes of collective bargaining by Local 18 of the Sheet Metal Workers International. The employer is represented for collective bargaining purposes by an association of sheet metal contractors. The employer agreed to be bound by all actions taken by the Association which concerned or arose out of collective bargaining negotiations.

The collective bargaining between Local 18 and the Association expired on 5/31/96, and on 6/7/96, Local 18 struck one of the Association's members, but not the employer. The Association responded by directing all of its employer members to lock out its employes as a response to the selective strike. The employer complied and locked out the employes for approximately one week, until a new collective bargaining agreement was reached.

The appeal tribunal found that the employes did not leave or lose their employment because of a strike or other bona fide labor dispute, within the meaning of Wis. Stat. 108.04(10). The commission reversed and the employes appealed.

Held:  Reversed.  Wis. Stat. 108.04(10)(d) provides that a "lockout" does not include barring employes from an establishment if such action is "directly subsequent to a strike or other job action of a labor union or group of employes of the employer."  LIRC incorrectly determined that this language encompassed a strike by union members at another Association employer, as opposed to encompassing only a strike engaged in by the employers' employes. The  language of the statute was ambiguous, this was an issue of first impression subject to de novo review, and the commission's interpretation of the statute could lead to an absurd result by allowing an employer to lock out its employes if members of their international union went on strike anywhere in the country. The employer's action constituted a statutory lockout and therefore the employes were eligible for benefits under Wis. Stat. 108.04(10)(a).

[Commission decision]. Circuit Court decision appealed and certified to the Supreme Court by the Court of Appeals. Circuit Court decision affirmed  by the Supreme Court, June 27, 2000. [Supreme Court Decision]

Please note that this is a summary prepared by staff of the commission, not a verbatim reproduction of the court decision.

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