International Association of Machinists District 10 v. Allen, No. 17-1178 (7th Cir. 2018)

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Justia Opinion Summary

In 2015, Wis. Stat. 111.01, changed many provisions of state labor laws. One provision purported to change the rules for payroll deductions that allow employees to pay union dues through dues‐checkoff authorizations. By signing an authorization, the employee directs the employer to deduct union dues or fees routinely from the employee’s paycheck and to remit those funds to the applicable union. The union itself is not a party to the authorization, which is effective if and only if the employee wishes. Federal law allows unions to bargain collectively with employers over the standard terms of dues‐checkoff authorizations: the authorization must be individual for each employee, in writing, and irrevocable for no longer than one year, 29 U.S.C. 186(a)(2), (c)(4). Wisconsin attempted to shorten this maximum period to 30 days. The district court found the matter preempted by federal law and issued a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the provision. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing the Supreme Court’s summary affirmance in a case finding a nearly identical state law preempted. Wisconsin’s attempt to short‐circuit the collective bargaining process and to impose a different dues‐checkoff standard is preempted by federal law.

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In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit ____________________ No. 17 1178 INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS DISTRICT TEN and LOCAL LODGE 873, Plaintiff Appellee, v. RAY ALLEN, in his capacity as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, et al., Defendants Appellants. ____________________ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. No. 16 CV 77 — William M. Conley, Judge. ____________________ ARGUED SEPTEMBER 15, 2017 — DECIDED SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 ____________________ Before MANION, ROVNER, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges. HAMILTON, Circuit Judge. Wisconsin’s Act 1 of 2015, codi fied at Wis. Stat. § 111.01 et seq., changed many provisions of that State’s labor laws. This case deals with a narrow provi sion of Act 1 that attempts to change the rules for payroll de ductions that allow employees to pay union dues through dues checko authorizations. 2 No. 17 1178 A dues checko authorization is a contract between an employer and employee for payroll deductions. These are “arrangements whereby [employers] would check o from employee wages amounts owed to a labor organization for dues, initiation fees and assessments.” Felter v. Southern Pacific Co., 359 U.S. 326, 330–31 (1958). By signing an authorization, the employee directs the employer to deduct union dues or fees routinely from the employee’s paycheck and to remit those funds to the applicable union. Many of these authoriza tions are irrevocable for a specified period—often one year— for reasons of administrative simplicity. See Dkt. 43 at 2 (Eli zondo A .); see also N.L.R.B. v. Atlanta Printing Specialties and Paper Prods. Union 527, 523 F.2d 783, 786 (5th Cir. 1975). The union itself is not a party to the authorization, which is e ec tive if and only if the employee wishes. Federal law has long provided, however, that unions can bargain collectively with employers over the standard terms of dues checko authori zations. The Taft Hartley Act imposes three limits on dues checko authorizations: the authorization must be (1) indi vidual for each employee, (2) in writing, and (3) irrevocable for no longer than one year. See 29 U.S.C. § 186(a)(2), (c)(4). Wisconsin’s Act 1 attempts to shorten this maximum period to thirty days. See 2015 Wis. Act 1, § 9, codified at Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i). The district court found that Wisconsin’s attempt to im pose its own time limit on dues checko authorizations is preempted by federal labor law, and the court issued a per manent injunction barring enforcement of that provision. In ternational Ass’n of Machinists District 10 v. Allen, No. 16 cv 77, 2016 WL 7475720, at *7 (W.D. Wis. Dec. 28, 2016). We a rm. No. 17 1178 3 This case is controlled by the Supreme Court’s summary af firmance in a case finding a nearly identical State law preempted. Sea Pak v. Indus., Tech. & Prof. Employees, Div. of Nat’l Maritime Union, 400 U.S. 985 (1971) (mem.). We reject Wisconsin’s e ort to undermine the precedential force of Sea Pak, which is fully consistent with more general federal labor law preemption principles. See, e.g., Machinists v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Comm n, 427 U.S. 132, 140–42, 153 (1976). Wisconsin’s attempt to short circuit the collective bargaining process and to impose a di erent dues checko standard is preempted by federal law. I. Factual and Procedural History A. Wisconsin Act 1 Before Act 1 was enacted in 2015, Wisconsin law had al lowed so called union security agreements in which unions and employers would agree that employees would be re quired either to join the union or pay fair share fees. That changed with Act 1’s “right to work” provisions, which pro hibit employers from requiring their employees to pay dues or fees to a union. See International Union of Operating Engi neers Local 139 v. Schimel, 863 F.3d 674, 676–77 (7th Cir. 2017), excerpting 2015 Wis. Act 1, § 5, codified at Wis. Stat. § 111.04(3)(a). Act 1 provides in part: “No person may require, as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment, an in dividual to … Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges … to a labor organization.” § 111.04(3)(a)(3). This also meant that Wisconsin employers and unions could no longer enter into an enforceable mandatory union security agree ment—a term in a collective bargaining agreement where an employer promises the union that, as a condition of employ ment, it will require its employees to maintain membership in 4 No. 17 1178 the union. We held in Schimel that this “right to work”/man datory union security agreement portion of Act 1 is not preempted by federal law. 863 F.3d at 677.1 The section of Act 1 challenged in this lawsuit attempts a less dramatic change in labor law. It requires employers to terminate dues checko authorizations within thirty days of receiving written notice from the employee. 2015 Wis. Act 1, § 9, codified at Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i). This challenged provi sion reads: (1) It shall be an unfair labor practice for an em ployer individually or in concert with others: … (i) To deduct labor organization dues or assess ments from an employee s earnings, unless the employer has been presented with an individ ual order therefor, signed by the employee per sonally, and terminable by the employee giving to the employer at least 30 days’ written notice of the termination. This paragraph applies to the extent permitted under federal law. B. The Dispute at the John Deere Plant This case stems from a complaint filed with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the State agency that enforces Wisconsin’s wage laws. Lisa Aplin, an assembler at a John Deere plant in Wisconsin, signed a dues checko au thorization in November 2002. Her authorization instructed John Deere to deduct union dues from her paychecks and to 1 Schimel followed our decision in Sweeney v. Pence, 767 F.3d 654 (7th Cir. 2014), where a divided panel upheld an identical Indiana law, and rehearing en banc was denied by an equally divided court. No. 17 1178 5 remit them to the International Association of Machinists Dis trict 10 and Local Lodge 873, the plainti s appellees here, which we refer to as the Machinists or the union. Aplin’s au thorization said that it was “irrevocable for one (1) year or un til the termination of the collective bargaining agreement … whichever occurs sooner.” It also provided that it would be automatically renewed for successive one year periods unless the collective bargaining agreement terminated or Aplin gave notice during a fifteen day annual period. The authorization also provided that it was “independent of, and not a quid pro quo for, union membership.” This arrangement remained in e ect until 2015. As the State explains, dues checko authori zations like this are a convenient way for employees to pay their union dues or fair share fees. In the wake of Act 1, John Deere and the Machinists up dated their collective bargaining agreement, but they left in place a term making dues checko authorizations irrevocable for one year. In July 2015, Aplin sent a letter to John Deere and the union invoking Act 1 and requesting the termination of her dues checko authorization. The union responded that her request was untimely and could not be granted unless she renewed it during the annual cancellation period that Novem ber. Aplin then filed a complaint with the State agency claim ing that John Deere was violating State wage laws by not hon oring within thirty days her attempt to revoke the dues checko authorization. She sought a refund of $65.60 in union dues deducted from her pay after the cancellation would have taken e ect. In November 2015, the agency sided with Aplin, finding that Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i) applied and that John Deere had to honor Aplin’s cancellation and refund request, 6 No. 17 1178 or face enforcement action. The company then reimbursed Aplin for the $65.60 deducted from her paycheck. Around the same time, the agency handled another similar dues checko complaint invoking Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i) and concluded that it “must enforce the statute in its current form” unless and until it was found preempted. C. This Federal Lawsuit In February 2016, the Machinists filed this action in the Western District of Wisconsin and moved to enjoin the State from enforcing Act 1’s dues checko provision. The union contended that the federal Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, better known as the Taft Hartley Act, preempted Act 1 on this score. See Pub. L. No. 80–101, § 302(a), (c)(4), 61 Stat. 157, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 186(a), (c)(4). To protect against corruption in the collective bargaining process, the Taft Hartley Act, as amended, prohibits “any em ployer or association of employers” from giving “any money or other thing of value” to “any labor organization,” § 186(a)(2), unless one of a long list of exceptions applies. § 186(c). The exception relevant here provides: The [prohibition] provisions of this section shall not be applicable … (4) with respect to money deducted from the wages of employees in payment of membership dues in a labor organization: Provided, That the employer has received from each employee, on whose account such deductions are made, a written assignment which shall not be irrevoc No. 17 1178 7 able for a period of more than one year, or be yond the termination date of the applicable col lective agreement, whichever occurs sooner … . § 186(c)(4). The union argued that this year long dues checko exception in federal labor law is incompatible with, and thus preempts, the corresponding thirty day provision of Wisconsin’s Act 1. The district court granted the union’s motion for summary judgment and permanently enjoined enforcement of Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i). 2016 WL 7475720, at *7–8. The district court found that this issue was “relatively straightforward, since its resolution is controlled by the United States Supreme Court’s decision” in Sea Pak. Id. at *3, citing 400 U.S. 985 (1971). II. Analysis We review the legal conclusions of summary judgment rulings de novo, construing all facts and drawing all reason able inferences in favor of the non moving parties. See Wis consin Central Ltd. v. Shannon, 539 F.3d 751, 756 (7th Cir. 2008). Here, however, because there are no genuine issues of mate rial fact, we must decide only whether the union is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Id.; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The main issue in this appeal is whether Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i) is preempted by Taft Hartley’s § 302(c)(4), codified at 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(4). We also must address whether Taft Hartley’s § 14(b) exception to preemption for State “right to work” laws—codified at 29 U.S.C. § 164(b)—allows Wisconsin to do what it attempted to do here. We conclude that the Taft Hartley Act preempts Wiscon sin’s attempt to set new rules for dues checko authorizations governed by § 186(c)(4). Because the challenged portion of 8 No. 17 1178 Act 1 regulates an employee’s optional dues checko author ization rather than an employee’s obligation to pay dues as a condition of employment, it falls outside the scope of the § 164(b) “right to work”/union security agreement exception. We explain in Part II A that we agree with the district court that the Supreme Court’s summary a rmance in Sea Pak con trols this case. In Part II B, we explain why Sea Pak fits com fortably with broader preemption principles of labor law. In Part II C, we address and reject further arguments by the State for recognizing an exception from those principles here. A. Sea Pak’s Continuing Force The procedural history of the Sea Pak decision was a bit unusual, but the district court correctly found that the Su preme Court’s summary a rmance in Sea Pak controls here. The Supreme Court has instructed that “the lower [federal] courts are bound by summary decisions by this Court ‘until such time as the Court informs (them) that (they) are not,’” because “votes to a rm summarily … are votes on the merits of a case,” just like those accompanied by fully reasoned Court opinions. Hicks v. Miranda, 422 U.S. 332, 344–45 (1975) (brackets and citation omitted). To understand the e ect of a summary a rmance, it is usually necessary to look closely at the decision that was sum marily a rmed. In Sea Pak, the Southern District of Georgia found a Georgia law very similar to Act 1 preempted. A Geor gia law required employers to treat dues checko authoriza tions as revocable at will. The district court found that provi sion was “completely at odds” and “in direct conflict” with 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(4), which, as noted, permits dues checko s to be irrevocable for up to one year. 300 F. Supp. 1197, 1200 (S.D. No. 17 1178 9 Ga. 1969).2 “A union is thus permitted to bargain for and re ceive a checko of dues under authorizations which may be irrevocable for as long as one year.” Id. This Taft Hartley pro vision meant “that no room remains for state regulation in the same field.” Id.3 The district court in Sea Pak also noted that Judge Noland of the Southern District of Indiana had reached the same con clusion on the same preemption question, holding that § 186(c)(4) preempted an Indiana wage assignment law re quiring assignments to be revocable at will. Id. at 1198–99, cit ing International B’hood of Operative Potters v. Tell City Chair Co., 295 F. Supp. 961, 965 (S.D. Ind. 1968) (§ 186 “specifies the con ditions necessary for a valid check o , and … is su ciently 2 The district court also noted that the original House passed version of § 186(c)(4) would have made dues checkoffs “revocable by the em ployee at any time upon thirty days written notice to the employer,” Sea Pak, 300 F. Supp. at 1200—the same policy Wisconsin has attempted to impose here. The final version of § 186(c)(4) allowed the maximum period to be as long as a full year. The district court concluded: “I cannot be per suaded that Federal preemption fails merely because Congress saw fit to adopt a less liberal power of revocation” in setting ground rules for dues checkoff authorizations. Id. 3 In so holding, the Sea Pak district court interpreted § 186(c)(4) the same way the Supreme Court had already read a nearly identical provi sion in the Railway Labor Act in Felter, see 359 U.S. at 330–31, discussed below at 20–23. The Sea Pak district court’s reasoning also correctly antici pated the Supreme Court’s decision seven years later in Machinists, 427 U.S. at 153, where the Court found that certain aspects of the “federal reg ulatory scheme” of labor management relations “leave the parties free” from “state attempts to influence the substantive terms of collective bar gaining agreements” and from such attempts by the National Labor Rela tions Board. 10 No. 17 1178 pervasive and encompassing” to preempt State wage assign ment laws). The Sea Pak district court also had to decide whether the Taft Hartley provision in 29 U.S.C. § 164(b), which permitted States to outlaw “agreements requiring union membership as a condition of employment,” also allowed a State to enact check o provisions contrary to what is provided in § 186(c)(4). 300 F. Supp. at 1199–1200. The court found that the State’s dues checko regulation was not saved by § 164(b): “Checko authorizations irrevocable for one year after [their authorization] date do not amount to compulsory unionism as to employees who wish to withdraw from membership prior to that time.” Id. at 1201. The Fifth Circuit a rmed per curiam, adopting the district court’s opinion. 423 F.2d 1229, 1230 (5th Cir. 1970). The Su preme Court a rmed that decision summarily, without opin ion. 400 U.S. 985 (1971). Both preemption arguments ad vanced in this case were “presented and necessarily decided” by the Court’s summary a rmance in Sea Pak; they did not “merely lurk in the record.” See Illinois State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173, 182–83 (1979) (preceden tial e ect of summary a rmance extends only to “the precise issues presented and necessarily decided,” not to questions that “merely lurk in the record”). Sea Pak controls this case.4 4 The employer appellant in Sea Pak presented the following questions to the Supreme Court, invoking mandatory appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1254(2) (1970): A. Whether the Georgia Statute requiring that dues assignments be revocable at will is in conflict with or preempted by Section 302(c)(4) of the Labor Management Relations Act. No. 17 1178 11 The State argues, though, that even if Sea Pak applies, sub sequent developments in the Supreme Court’s case law on preemption mean that Sea Pak is no longer binding. Language in Hicks v. Miranda may o er a small opening for lower courts to depart from summary decisions “when doctrinal develop ments indicate otherwise.” 422 U.S. at 344, quoting Port Au thority Bondholders Protective Comm. v. Port of New York Auth., 387 F.2d 259, 263 n.3 (2d Cir. 1967) (addressing dismissals for lack of substantial federal questions), and citing Doe v. Hodg son, 478 F.2d 537, 539 (2d Cir. 1973) (lower courts should fol low summary decisions until Supreme Court says otherwise). We found such an opening in Baskin v. Bogan, 766 F.3d 648, 659 (7th Cir. 2014), finding that a 1972 summary dismissal for want of a substantial federal question rejecting a constitu tional claim for same sex marriage was no longer binding in light of a consistent series of more recent Supreme Court de cisions recognizing certain sexual orientation rights under the Constitution. To the extent there might be any theoretical room for departing from the summary a rmance in Sea Pak, it would take much stronger signals from the Court to do so. B. Whether the Georgia Statute is a valid exercise of the authority reserved to the Georgia legislature by Section 14(b) of the Labor Management Relations Act, and is, therefore not saved from preemption. Statement as to Jurisdiction for the Appellant at 5, Sea Pak, 400 U.S. 985 (No. 70 463), 1970 WL 136846, at *4. The issues presented here are indis tinguishable. The Georgia law made dues checkoffs “revocable at the will of the employee,” Sea Pak, 300 F. Supp. 1199, while Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i) grants an at will cancellation right to employees, to take effect in thirty days. This thirty day delay is a distinction without a difference. Both stat utes operate to shorten considerably the irrevocability period of dues checkoff agreements otherwise permitted under Taft Hartley. 12 No. 17 1178 As we explain in Part II B, there has been no comparable sea change in labor law preemption or preemption more gener ally that would justify a lower court in departing from Sea Pak. In addition, to agree with the State and reverse here, we would have to split with two other circuits. See United Auto., Aerospace & Agric. Implement Workers of Am. Local 3047 v. Har din County, 842 F.3d 407, 410, 421–22 (6th Cir. 2016) (following Sea Pak to invalidate county ordinance regulating dues checko authorizations); N.L.R.B. v. Shen Mar Food Products, Inc., 557 F.2d 396, 399 (4th Cir. 1977) (agreeing with NLRB that “the check o provision was not a Union security device which would be subject to State law under Section 14(b)” of Taft Hartley); see also N.L.R.B. v. Atlanta Printing Specialties and Paper Products Union 527, 523 F.2d 783, 784, 787–88 (5th Cir. 1975) (enforcing NLRB order to employer and union to honor dues checko cancellations tendered during annual es cape period of fifteen days). We agree with the Sixth Circuit that Sea Pak’s “authority remains essentially unchallenged” today. Hardin County, 842 F.3d at 421. B. Labor Law Preemption More Generally 1. Machinists and Garmon Preemption The State urges us to decide this case under more general field or conflict preemption principles. We conclude, how ever, that Sea Pak is consistent with the Court’s other labor law preemption decisions, which provide quite clear guidance here. In Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 138 S. Ct. 1461, 1480 (2018), the Supreme Court explained that all forms of federal preemption “work in the same way: Congress en acts a law that imposes restrictions or confers rights on private actors; a state law confers rights or imposes restrictions that No. 17 1178 13 conflict with the federal law; and therefore the federal law takes precedence and the state law is preempted.” Most rele vant for this case, “field preemption” occurs “when federal law occupies a ‘field’ of regulation ‘so comprehensively that it has left no room for supplementary state legislation.’” Id., quoting R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Durham County, 479 U.S. 130, 140 (1986). Federal statutes that preempt a field “reflect[] a congressional decision to foreclose any state regulation in the area, even if it is parallel to federal standards.” Murphy, 138 S. Ct. at 1481, quoting Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387, 401 (2012). Over the decades since enactment of the National Labor Relations Act and the Taft Hartley Act, the Supreme Court has applied field preemption in a host of cases interpreting those laws. The resulting body of law reflects many individ ual applications of the general principles of preemption, and labor law preemption cases specifically provide the most re liable guidance for us in this case, if any were needed beyond the Court’s summary a rmance in Sea Pak. Labor law preemption applies, to put it broadly, when a State acts “as regulator of private conduct” with an “interest in setting policy” that is di erent from the policy of the fed eral government. Building & Constr. Trades Council v. Associ ated Builders & Contractors of Mass./R. I., Inc., 507 U.S. 218, 229 (1993) (Boston Harbor). Most relevant here are two forms of field preemption in labor law, known as Garmon preemption and Machinists preemption. The Supreme Court has ex plained: The first, known as Garmon pre emption, see San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 14 No. 17 1178 U.S. 236 (1959), “is intended to preclude state in terference with the National Labor Relations Board s interpretation and active enforcement of the ‘integrated scheme of regulation’ estab lished by the [National Labor Relations Act (or NLRA, also known as the Wagner Act)].” Golden State Transit Corp. v. Los Angeles, 475 U.S. 608, 613 (1986) (Golden State I). To this end, Garmon pre emption forbids States to “regulate activity that the NLRA protects, prohibits, or arguably protects or prohibits.” Wisconsin Dept. of Indus try v. Gould Inc., 475 U.S. 282, 286 (1986). The sec ond, known as Machinists pre emption, forbids both the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and States to regulate conduct that Con gress intended “be unregulated because left ‘to be controlled by the free play of economic forces.’” Machinists v. Wisconsin Employment Re lations Comm n, 427 U.S. 132, 140 (1976) (quoting NLRB v. Nash–Finch Co., 404 U.S. 138, 144 (1971)). Machinists pre emption is based on the premise that “‘Congress struck a balance of pro tection, prohibition, and laissez faire in respect to union organization, collective bargaining, and labor disputes.’” 427 U.S., at 140, n. 4 (quot ing [Archibald] Cox, Labor Law Preemption Re visited, 85 Harv. L. Rev. 1337, 1352 (1972)). Chamber of Commerce v. Brown, 554 U.S. 60, 65 (2008); see also 520 South Michigan Ave. Assoc. v. Shannon, 549 F.3d 1119, 1125– 26 (7th Cir. 2008) (summarizing Garmon and Machinists preemption doctrines). No. 17 1178 15 Both the Garmon and Machinists doctrines apply broadly to the Wagner (NLRA) and Taft Hartley Acts: “the object of labor pre emption analysis,” according to the Court, is “giv ing e ect to Congress’ intent in enacting” provisions of “the Wagner and Taft Hartley Acts” as statements of national la bor management policy. Brown, 554 U.S. at 73; see also Bel knap, Inc. v. Hale, 463 U.S. 491, 524–25 (1983) (referring to “the Wagner and Taft Hartley Acts” as a cohesive whole), citing N.L.R.B. v. Insurance Agents, 361 U.S. 477, 489 (1960); Machin ists, 427 U.S. at 141 (same). Machinists preemption is quite broad. It recognizes that federal labor statutes “specifically conferred on employers and employees” a right to determine certain questions through bargaining and the use of other “permissible eco nomic tactics,” and to be free from government fiat in finding solutions. Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles, 493 U.S. 103, 112–13 (1989) (Golden State II) (where Machinists ap plies, it extends a right enforceable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Although “the rule of the Machinists case is not set forth in the specific text of an enumerated section of the NLRA,” that stat ute’s “language and structure” o er “a guarantee of freedom for private conduct that the State may not abridge.” Id. at 111– 12. Machinists instructs that both the NLRB and the States “are without authority to attempt to introduce some standard of properly balanced bargaining power” or to impose “an ideal or balanced state of collective bargaining” because Congress intended to leave such balancing to labor and management. Machinists, 427 U.S. at 149–50 (quotations and citations omit ted). “[T]he legislative purpose” as determined from the text and structure of the Wagner and Taft Hartley Acts “may … dictate that certain activity neither protected nor prohibited” by federal labor law may “be deemed privileged against state 16 No. 17 1178 regulation.” See id. at 141, quoting Hanna Mining Co. v. Marine Engineers, 382 U.S. 181, 187 (1965). For example, we applied Machinists preemption to an Illi nois law that required cemeteries and gravediggers to negoti ate to establish a pool of workers who would “perform reli giously required interments during labor disputes.” Cannon v. Edgar, 33 F.3d 880, 882, 885–86 (7th Cir. 1994). Despite the State law’s benign purpose to respect certain faiths’ beliefs concerning timely burial, the law impermissibly “meddle[d] with the collective bargaining process” by “directly inter fer[ing] with the ability of” labor and management “to reach an agreement unfettered by the (labor) restrictions of state law.” Id. at 886; see also id. at 885 (finding same statute preempted under Garmon as well). Similarly, we applied Ma chinists preemption to an Illinois law that required hotels to give custodial workers specified break periods, rather than leave the issue to collective bargaining. We found that the law was not a minimum labor standard but a specific intrusion into collective bargaining in a particular industry. 520 S. Mich igan Ave., 549 F.3d at 1121. Even State laws with indirect e ects on bargaining can be preempted under Machinists. Though Machinists itself was di rected at a union’s “refusal to work overtime” and the eco nomic pressure that the refusal placed on the employer, see 427 U.S. at 154, 155, it bars State regulation in any “zone pro tected and reserved for market freedom” by federal labor law. Boston Harbor, 507 U.S. at 226–27 (city governments are “pre empted from conditioning renewal of a taxicab operating li cense upon the settlement of a labor dispute”), citing Golden State I, 475 U.S. at 618. In such zones, the Court observed in Brown, “the States have no more authority than the Board to No. 17 1178 17 upset the balance that Congress has struck between labor and management.” 554 U.S. at 74 (brackets omitted), quoting Met ropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Massachusetts, 471 U.S. 724, 751 (1985). Before turning to more specific discussion of Garmon and Machinists preemption principles as applied to dues checko authorization, we address the State’s broadest argument, which is that the court should apply a much more demanding standard for preemption than was applied in Sea Pak, Garmon, or Machinists. The State cites and quotes Justice Kagan’s con curring opinion in Kurns v. Railroad Friction Products Corp., 565 U.S. 625, 638 (2012), which observes that some older preemp tion cases may seem anachronisms in terms of newer preemp tion principles and precedents. Kurns itself provides the best answer to the argument. Both the Kurns majority and Justice Kagan followed the argu ably “anachronistic” decision in Napier v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co., 272 U.S. 605 (1926) (applying field preemption under Locomotive Inspection Act for railroad safety equip ment). They did so because Napier had established the preemptive force of that statute decades earlier and Congress had not acted to change that law. 565 U.S. at 633 (majority); id. at 638 (Kagan, J., concurring). As in Kurns, the Supreme Court has often observed that principles of stare decisis take on “spe cial force” on issues of statutory interpretation. They do so precisely because Congress can legislate to correct an errone ous decision by the Court. E.g., Global Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A., 563 U.S. 754, 765 (2011) (patent law); Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, 431 U.S. 720, 736 (1977) (antitrust law). A case that makes that point with special force, because Congress did re spond with new legislation, is Patterson v. McLean Credit Un 18 No. 17 1178 ion, 491 U.S. 164, 172–73 (1989) (civil rights litigation), super seded by Civil Rights Act of 1991, as stated in CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, 553 U.S. 442, 450 (2008). The State’s reliance on more general principles of preemp tion from other statutory contexts thus fails to engage with the doctrinal heart of this case, which is the decades of deci sions deciding the preemptive force of the Wagner and Taft Hartley Acts. The issue before us is the preemptive scope of the Taft Hartley Act, so the most relevant guides are the Su preme Court’s decisions under that statute. Moreover, one cannot call Garmon and Machinists “anachronisms” when the Court has been citing and following them on a regular basis. See, e.g., Brown, 554 U.S. at 66 (2008 decision discussing both and applying Machinists preemption); Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild, Inc., 525 U.S. 33, 49 (1998) (applying Garmon preemp tion); Golden State I, 475 U.S. at 615–16 (1986 decision applying Machinists preemption). 2. Preemption for Dues Checko Rules Returning to the text of the relevant Taft Hartley provi sion, 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(4), federal labor law imposes only min imal rules for collective bargaining on dues checko authori zation. Federal law leaves other details for resolution by pri vate actors—employers, unions, and employees—through the collective bargaining and dues checko authorization pro cesses. Section 186 was enacted after Congress had gained some experience with how the Wagner Act worked in practice. The provision was intended “to deal with problems peculiar to collective bargaining” and in particular “was aimed at prac tices which Congress considered inimical to the integrity of No. 17 1178 19 the collective bargaining process.” Arroyo v. United States, 359 U.S. 419, 424–25 (1959); see also Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, 571 U.S. 83, 84 (2013) (Breyer, J., dissenting from denial of cer tiorari) (describing how § 186 operates to discourage corrup tion of bargaining process). The backers of § 186 “were con cerned with corruption of collective bargaining through brib ery of employee representatives by employers” and with other related financial risks. Arroyo, 359 U.S. at 425–26. The Taft Hartley Act thus made it unlawful for employers to de liver “any money or other thing of value … to any labor or ganization.” § 186(a), (a)(2). Congress did not intend, however, to outlaw dues checko agreements. They are not a special opportunity for corruption but a convenient way for employees to pay their union dues. So Congress included this exception to the anti corruption provision: The provisions of this section shall not be appli cable … (4) with respect to money deducted from the wages of employees in payment of membership dues in a labor organization: Provided, That the employer has received from each employee, on whose account such deductions are made, a written assignment which shall not be irrevoc able for a period of more than one year, or be yond the termination date of the applicable col lective agreement, whichever occurs sooner. § 186(c)(4). This exception sets three, and only three, limits on dues checko agreements, the “written assignment” referred to in 20 No. 17 1178 the statute. Such agreements must be (1) individual and (2) in writing, and (3) they must allow an employee to revoke it at least once a year or upon expiration of the applicable collec tive agreement. Apart from those limits, dues checko au thorizations are left to collective bargaining. States are not free to mandate additional restrictions for the benefit of unions, employers, or employees. In addition to the summary a rmance in Sea Pak, the Su preme Court reached the same conclusion in a full opinion interpreting a nearly identical provision in the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 152 Eleventh (b), which was modeled on § 186(c)(4). Felter v. Southern Pacific Co., 359 U.S. 326, 332–33 n.10 (1959).5 The RLA provision permits dues checko agree ments in railroad employee unions under the same conditions set forth in § 186(c)(4).6 In Felter, the Supreme Court inter preted those terms to mean what Sea Pak held and what we 5 Where RLA and NRLA provisions “are in all material respects iden tical,” the Supreme Court has used RLA cases as a guide to the NLRA and vice versa. See Communications Workers of Am. v. Beck, 487 U.S. 735, 745 (1988) (applying RLA analysis to materially identical NLRA provision), citing Ellis v. B’hood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, 466 U.S. 435, 452 n.13 (1984) (applying NLRA analysis to “equivalent provision” of the RLA). 6 Notwithstanding any other provisions … a labor organization … shall be permitted to make agreements providing for the de duction … from the wages of its or their employees … any peri odic dues … Provided, That no such agreement shall be effective with respect to any individual employee until he shall have fur nished the employer with a written assignment to the labor or ganization of such membership dues, initiation fees, and assess ments, which shall be revocable in writing after the expiration of one year or upon the termination date of the applicable collective bargaining agreement, whichever occurs sooner. No. 17 1178 21 hold today under § 186(c)(4)—Congress left to private actors whether, and if so, how, to formulate a dues checko agree ment within the basic parameters set forth in the federal stat ute. The individual employee must agree to the dues checko , in writing, and it must be revocable at least once every year or at the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, whichever occurs sooner. The Felter Court explained that when Congress added Sec tion 2 Eleventh (b) to the Railway Labor Act: It thus became lawful to bargain collectively for “union shop” and “checko ” arrangements; but this power was made subject to limitations. The limitation here pertinent is that, by force of the proviso, the authority to make checko ar rangements does not include authority to bind individual employees to submit to the checko . Any agreement was to be ine ective as to an employee who did not furnish the employer with a written assignment in favor of the labor organization, and any assignment made was to be “revocable in writing after the expiration of one year … .” This failure to authorize agree ments binding employees to submit to the checko was deliberate on the part of Congress. Proposals to that end were expressly rejected. … [The final bill allowed] the individual employee to decide for himself whether to submit to the Pub. L. No. 81–914, ch. 1220, 64 Stat. 1238 (1951), codified at 45 U.S.C. § 152 Eleventh (b). 22 No. 17 1178 checko , and whether to revoke an authoriza tion after the expiration of one year. 359 U.S. at 331–32. The Supreme Court then explained how this language placed in only private hands the decisions about additional terms of dues checko authorizations: The structure of § 2 Eleventh (b) then is sim ple: carriers and labor organizations are author ized to bargain for arrangements for a checko by the employer on behalf of the organization. Latitude is allowed in the terms of such arrange ments, but not past the point such terms im pinge upon the freedom expressly reserved to the individual employee to decide whether he will authorize the checko in his case. Similarly Congress consciously and deliberately chose to deny carriers and labor organizations authority to reach terms which would restrict the em ployee’s complete freedom to revoke an assign ment by a writing directed to the employer after one year. Congress was specifically concerned with keeping these areas of individual choice o the bargaining table. It is plainly our duty to ef fectuate this obvious intention of Congress … . Id. at 333. In Felter itself, the Court found that the employer and the union had violated those statutory ground rules by refusing to honor a timely revocation notice because it had not been submitted on a particular form. Id. at 330. No. 17 1178 23 Most relevant to this case, however, Felter explained the rules that apply as long as private agreements do not contra dict the statutory ground rules: Of course, the parties may act to minimize the procedural problems caused by Congress’ choice. Carriers and labor organizations may set up procedures through the collective agreement for processing, between themselves, individual assignments and revocations received, and car riers may make reasonable designations, in or out of collective bargaining contracts, or agents to whom revocations may be sent. Id. at 334–35. In other words, those matters not governed ex pressly by the statute were left to the collective bargaining process, just as in Sea Pak and Machinists. 3. Applying Machinists and Garman Preemption Here Here, Wisconsin acted to give employees like Lisa Aplin an additional statutory right under State law: the ability to cancel their duly authorized dues checko agreements mid year on just thirty days’ notice. Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i). The problem is that the Taft Hartley Act leaves it to private ac tors—and not the State—to decide how long the dues checko authorization should last, as long as the authoriza tion is individual, in writing, and not irrevocable for longer than one year. 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(4). The State’s attempt to add additional regulatory requirements for dues checko s, and thus to change the scope of permissible collective bargaining, is preempted. A strong case could be made for Garmon preemption here because Act 1 can place employers under inconsistent State 24 No. 17 1178 and federal expectations. After agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement, employer John Deere was caught here in a federal state bind. It had agreed, in light of federal law, to a collective bargaining agreement with the Machinists that in corporated by reference dues checko agreements irrevoc able for one year. Because this decision was inconsistent with Wisconsin’s thirty day revocability requirement, John Deere was told that it could be found responsible for committing an unfair labor practice under State law. But if, after executing the collective bargaining agreement, John Deere had decided to ignore its requirements and to comply with Act 1 instead, it could have been brought before the National Labor Rela tions Board by the union for committing a federal unfair labor practice. See, e.g., Metalcraft of Mayville, Inc. and District Lodge No. 10, Int’l Assoc. of Machinists & Aerospace Workers of Am., No. 18 CA 178322, 2017 WL 956627 (N.L.R.B. Div. of Judges Mar. 10, 2017) (analyzing complaint brought by same union against di erent employer in wake of Act 1). Garmon preemption is supposed to prevent just this sort of conflict between State law and the NLRB’s authority. See Brown, 554 U.S. at 65.7 7 Another argument in favor of Garmon preemption is that the precise terms of dues checkoff agreements might be considered a wage related term of employment, and thus a mandatory subject of bargaining under the NLRA. 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(5), (d); Garmon, 359 U.S. at 245 (“When an activity is arguably subject to § 7 or § 8 of the Act, the States as well as the federal courts must defer to the exclusive competence of the National Labor Relations Board”). We have equated the two before. See Office & Prof. Employees Int’l. Union, Local 95 v. Wood Cty. Tel. Co., 408 F.3d 314, 317 (7th Cir. 2005) (distinguishing “between dues checkoffs and other terms and conditions of employment,” but only with respect to the “express contractual authorization requirement” for checkoffs). Since Sea Pak and No. 17 1178 25 The State responds that there is a simple solution that would allow an employer to resolve this conflict. In the bar gaining process, the State says, the employer could simply re fuse to agree to any irrevocability period longer than thirty days. That is true in theory, but this argument shows clearly why the State law is preempted under Machinists. Under the Taft Hartley Act, the State simply is not allowed to impose its own view of how best to balance the interests of labor and management in zones that Congress deliberately left for reso lution by collective bargaining. Machinists, 427 U.S. at 149–50 (both NLRB and States “are without authority to attempt to introduce some standard of properly balanced bargaining power” in such areas) (quotation marks omitted), quoting N.L.R.B. v. Insurance Agents, 361 U.S. 477, 497 (1960). Wiscon sin’s Act 1 tries to short circuit the bargaining process by tell ing John Deere and the union they must use a dues checko irrevocability period much shorter than federal law would otherwise permit. As explained above, Machinists applies a rule of field preemption in areas that “Congress intended [to] be unregu lated” by the NLRB or the States. See Brown, 554 U.S. at 65 (quotation marks omitted), quoting Machinists, 427 U.S. at 140. As Felter explained, the text and structure of Taft Hartley’s dues checko provision do precisely that—employers and la bor organizations “are authorized to bargain for arrange ments for a checko by the employer on behalf of the organi zation,” and it is “expressly reserved to the individual em ployee to decide whether he will authorize the checko in his case.” 359 U.S. at 333. That leaves no room for Wisconsin to Machinists provide such a clear answer to the issue presented in this case, we do not need to explore Garmon preemption in any more detail. 26 No. 17 1178 impose its own regulations in this same field. As in Felter, it “is plainly our duty to e ectuate this obvious intention of Congress,” id., and to keep State law from invading this zone that Congress deliberately left to private actors. C. The State’s Arguments for an Exception The State o ers two more arguments to shield Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i) from preemption. It first argues that preemption analysis should not apply to State dues checko laws because 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(4), is only an exception to a criminal prohi bition against bribery and corruption. Second, the State ar gues that Taft Hartley’s preemption exemption for State “right to work”/mandatory union security agreement laws, § 164(b), applies not only to the kind of agreements men tioned in its text, but also to State laws regulating the terms of dues checko authorizations. Neither argument finds sup port in the statute or in the Supreme Court’s labor law deci sions. 1. Section 186’s Preemptive Scope First, as recounted above, Taft Hartley’s prohibition on employers and their agents giving “any money or other thing of value” to unions in § 186(a) was designed to fight corrup tion. The exception in § 186(c)(4) goes further, though. It also sets regulatory terms and conditions for lawful dues checko s: “Provided, That the employer has received from each employee, on whose account such deductions are made, a written assignment which shall not be irrevocable for a pe No. 17 1178 27 riod of more than one year[.]” This proviso shows a regula tory intent, not just a narrowing of the scope of § 186(a)’s crim inal liability.8 Section 186 is not a generic criminal statute applicable across many di erent potential contexts, comparable to say, mail or wire fraud. Next to Taft Hartley’s other provisions, the scope, exceptions, and location of § 186 show that it seeks primarily to regulate the interaction between employers and employee representatives, including some key terms of dues checko authorizations. The fact that some violations of these policies may be felonies, see § 186(d), reflects the depth of Congress’s commitment to these policy choices. It does not show a choice to limit this section’s preemptive e ect. In addition, Machinists does not suggest that certain parts of Taft Hartley should be treated di erently in terms of preemption. Where Congress deliberately left choices to pri vate actors, neither the State nor the NLRB may intervene. See Machinists, 427 U.S. at 140 & n.4. Even public policy and reg ulatory decisions in other areas of the law can be preempted under Machinists if they have an impact on the collective bar gaining process. See above at 15–17. Finally, by attempting to regulate the revocation period of dues checko authorizations, Act 1 is not a “state law[] of general application” like minimum wage laws or minimum 8 The exception that immediately follows, § 186(c)(5), regarding union trust funds, provides another example of regulatory choices made in this fashion. Its “Provided” language lists permissible uses for trust funds, sets forth a process for approving trust fund plans, and even empowers district courts to appoint “an impartial umpire” to settle certain kinds of disputes. This structure is used elsewhere in federal labor law. See, e.g., § 158(a)(3) (union security agreements and unfair labor practices). 28 No. 17 1178 labor standards laws, which are generally not preempted. See Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Massachusetts, 471 U.S. 724, 753, 755 (1985). Here, Wisconsin seeks to modify a specific federal la bor policy choice made in 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(4), not to enact generally applicable health insurance standards, as in Metro politan Life, see 471 U.S. at 727, or to impose “a minimum labor standard which does not interfere with the collective bargain ing process,” as described in Shannon, 549 F.3d at 1129. This public policy decision in Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i)—to narrow the scope of bargaining between the employer and the un ion—is preempted. 2. The Exception for “Right to Work”/Union Security Agreements The State also contends that Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i) is per missible because Taft Hartley’s § 14(b) expressly permits States to outlaw mandatory union security agreements in “right to work” laws. 29 U.S.C. § 164(b); see also Sweeney v. Pence, 767 F.3d 654, 658–59 (7th Cir. 2014) (describing history of § 164(b)). Whether to allow “agreements requiring mem bership in a labor organization as a condition of employment” is a policy choice that Congress reserved to the States in that provision. § 164(b).9 Wisconsin contends that the dues checko authorization at issue here is a “maintenance of membership” device best thought of as a union security 9 § 164(b) reads in full: Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed as authorizing the execution or application of agreements requiring mem bership in a labor organization as a condition of employment in any State or Territory in which such execution or applica tion is prohibited by State or Territorial law. No. 17 1178 29 agreement subject to § 164(b)’s preemption exception. Alter natively, the State contends that § 111.06(1)(i)’s thirty day maximum is one of the “appropriate tools” the State can use in asserting the policy freedom granted by Taft Hartley. See Chamber of Commerce of United States v. Whiting, 563 U.S. 582, 600–01 (2011) (plurality opinion). These arguments depend on the mistaken premise that dues checko authorizations are union security agreements, i.e., “agreements requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment,” as set forth in the text of § 164(b) (emphasis added). They are not. Dues checko authoriza tions are optional payroll deduction contracts between em ployers and individual employees, similar to health insurance premium payroll deductions or retirement savings arrange ments. Checko s can be mentioned in a collective bargaining agreement, but they need not be. See Columbia College Chicago v. N.L.R.B., 847 F.3d 547, 552–53 (7th Cir. 2017) (explaining that NLRA requires bargaining but not specific contractual outcomes). Unlike public sector employees subject to collec tive bargaining agreements, private sector employees cannot be forced to agree to these payroll deductions. Compare Dav enport v. Washington Educ. Ass’n, 551 U.S. 177, 181–82 (2007), citing Wash. Rev. Code § 41.59.100 (2006) (“the employer shall enforce it by deducting from the salary” of employees), with 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(4) (requiring employer to have “received from each employee … a written assignment”). In both Sea Pak and Felter, the Supreme Court has illus trated the di erence between dues checko authorizations and union security agreements, i.e., union shop or agency shop provisions. Neither Taft Hartley nor the Railway Labor 30 No. 17 1178 Act in Felter equates dues checko s with compulsory union membership. In fact, Felter observed: The Act makes no formal relationship between a union shop arrangement and a checko ar rangement; under [the Act] the parties can ne gotiate either one without the other, if they are so disposed. And of course, a labor organization member who is subject to a union shop arrange ment need not subscribe to the checko ; he can maintain his standing by paying his dues per sonally. 359 U.S. at 337 n.12; see also Dkt. 30–1 at 7 (collective bargain ing agreement in this case provided that “if no such authori zation is in e ect, [a member] must pay his membership dues directly to the Union”). By summarily a rming the district court’s § 164(b) discussion in Sea Pak, the Supreme Court en dorsed the conclusion that § 164(b) “reaches no further” than its terms. 300 F. Supp. at 1201. “Checko authorizations irrev ocable for one year after [their e ective] date do not amount to compulsory unionism as to employees who wish to with draw from membership prior to that time.” Id.10 10 On the facts of this case, Aplin’s dues checkoff authorization cannot reasonably be considered a union security device. She would not have faced any consequences from the union or her employer if she had never authorized it. It was also, by its express terms, “not a quid pro quo for … union membership.” Dkt. 30 3. The dues checkoff authorization might have become a term of her employment once Aplin signed it, but it was never “a condition of employment” as that term is used in § 164(b)—the authorization was a freely adopted optional contractual arrangement with her employer, with its own cancellation terms and conditions that fully complied with federal law. See Dkt. 30 1 at 7; Dkt. 30 3; 29 U.S.C. No. 17 1178 31 To counter these points, the State relies on Whiting, a case about federal immigration law and an Arizona business li censing statute, for the idea that it can use “appropriate tools to exercise [the] authority” granted under federal labor law in § 164(b). 563 U.S. at 600–01 (plurality opinion) (discussing 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(h)(2), which permits States to impose “civil or criminal sanctions” on “those who employ … unauthorized aliens” provided this is done “through licensing and similar laws”). Congress did not write § 164(b) nearly as broadly as it wrote the statute in Whiting. Courts have rejected reliance on § 164(b) to save State statutes that veered beyond the provi sion’s express scope: agreements between labor and manage ment designed to prevent workers from free riding on a un ion’s services. See Idaho Bldg. & Const. Trades Council v. Inland Pacific Chapter of Assoc. Builders & Contractors, 801 F.3d 950, 954, 958 (9th Cir. 2015), citing Oil, Chem. & Atomic Workers Int’l Union v. Mobil Oil Corp., 426 U.S. 407, 409 & nn.1 & 2, 416–17 (1976) (explaining free rider problem solved by union shop and agency shop agreements); see also Beck, 487 U.S. at 744, 746, 748–49 (explaining that under Taft Hartley’s nationwide policy, which outlawed closed shop agreements where union membership was a pre condition for employment, “Congress authorized compulsory unionism only to the extent necessary to ensure that those who enjoy union negotiated benefits con tribute to their cost”). § 186(c)(4). Aplin enjoyed the convenience of a payroll deduction for thir teen years. Only in the last few months of the arrangement did she seek to change it. Sea Pak specifically rejected the notion that this state of affairs amounts to compulsory union membership. 32 No. 17 1178 There is no such free rider concern here. Wisconsin is seeking to modify the terms of voluntary payroll deductions involving an employer and its employee, not mandatory un ion or agency shop requirements that the employer and the union agree to impose on all employees. We know this from the terms of Act 1 itself. Its language invoking the power granted by § 164(b) came in the “right to work”/union secu rity agreements provision. 2015 Wis. Act 1, § 5, codified at Wis. Stat. § 111.04(3)(a). In Sweeney, we described the States’ § 164(b) freedom as “extensive,” 767 F.3d at 660, but the Supreme Court has made clear that before that freedom can apply, there must actually be a proper union security agreement in dispute: “state power, recognized by § 14(b), begins only with actual negotia tion and execution of the type of agreement described by § 14(b). Absent such an agreement, conduct arguably an unfair labor practice would be a matter for the National Labor Relations Board under Garmon.” Retail Clerks Int’l Ass’n Local 1625 v. Schermerhorn, 375 U.S. 96, 105 (1963) (Retail Clerks II) (empha sis in original). This § 164(b) authority also applies “only where State and federal power are concurrent.” Algoma Ply wood & Veneer Co. v. Wis. Employment Relations Bd., 336 U.S. 301, 315 (1949); 29 U.S.C. §§ 158(a)(3), 164(b). That is not the case here with respect to dues checko authorizations. Sec tion 164(b) does not authorize States to regulate other ar rangements not covered by its terms, such as dues checko authorizations. Conclusion In light of Sea Pak, Machinists, and the Supreme Court’s other labor preemption decisions, 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(4) preempts Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(i). The judgment of the district No. 17 1178 33 court reaching that conclusion and enjoining enforcement of the State statute is AFFIRMED. 34 No. 17 1178 MANION, Circuit Judge, dissenting. Section 302 of the Taft Hartley Act, an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act, makes it a crime for an employer to give anything of value to a union representing, or seeking to represent, its em ployees. 29 U.S.C. § 186(a). But the law specifically exempts so called “checko agreements,” wherein an employee agrees to set o a portion of each paycheck for union dues, so long as the employee submits a written assignment not irrevocable for more than one year. Id. § 186(c)(4). Thus, federal law pro hibits checko agreements irrevocable for more than one year, but permits those with revocability periods of a year or less. Nearly 50 years ago, a district judge held that Taft Hartley’s checko provision preempted a state law requiring checko agreements be revocable at will. Although the state law did not conflict with the federal checko provision, the judge concluded that “[t]he area of checko of union dues has been federally occupied to such an extent under [Section 302] that no room remains for state regulation in the same field.” SeaPak v. Indus., Tech. & Prof’l Emps., 300 F. Supp. 1197, 1200 (S.D. Ga. 1969). That decision was summarily a rmed first by the Fifth Circuit and then the Supreme Court, making it the law of the land. 400 U.S. 985 (1971) (mem.). As a result, states have been prohibited since 1971 from regulating checko agreements despite scant textual evidence of congressional intent to prevent them from doing so. Enacted in 2015, Wisconsin’s right to work law challenges this precedent. In addition to outlawing compulsory union ism, the law requires that checko agreements be terminable upon 30 days’ notice to the employer. John Deere employee Lisa Aplin tried to take advantage of the new law by revoking No. 17 1178 35 her checko agreement, but the union, the International As sociation of Machinists, was not pleased and refused to accept her revocation. Aplin charged that the union committed an unfair labor practice, and the Wisconsin Department of Work force Development agreed. But with the Supreme Court’s summary a rmance in hand, the union obtained an injunc tion in federal district court. The court today a rms, relying not only on SeaPak, but on the doctrine of Machinists preemption, a form of labor specific preemption that didn’t acquire its name until five years after the SeaPak decision. See Lodge 76, Int’l Ass’n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, AFL CIO v. Wis. Emp’t Relations Comm., 427 U.S. 132 (1976). In my view, the SeaPak summary a rmance deserves a fresh look. SeaPak’s holding that all state regulation of checko agreements is preempted does not fit comfortably within the Machinists doctrine. Nor does it stand up to any scrutiny under modern general preemption doctrine, which now requires much stronger textual indications of Congres sional intent to displace state regulation. I conclude that de velopments over the last 47 years have eroded the preceden tial value of SeaPak to such an extent that we no longer are obliged to follow it. Therefore, I would permit Wisconsin to enforce its limitation on checko agreements. I respectfully dissent. I. Background Wisconsin’s right to work law, known as Act 1, went into e ect on July 1, 2015. Its main provision abolishes compulsory unionism, declaring that “[n]o person may require, as a con dition of obtaining or continuing employment, an individual to … [p]ay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges or expenses of any kind or amount … to a labor organization” or 36 No. 17 1178 “any 3rd party.” WIS. STAT. § 111.04(3)(a)3 & 4. Further, when an employee chooses to pay dues to a union via a checko from the employee’s paycheck, such checko agreement must be “terminable by the employee giving to the employer at least 30 days’ written notice of the termination.” Id. § 111.06(1)(i). The limitation on checko agreements permits employees more flexibility, allowing them to easily stop de ductions from their paychecks. Lisa Aplin worked for John Deere. The International Asso ciation of Machinists had a collective bargaining agreement with John Deere to represent the employees at Aplin’s plant, but Aplin never agreed to join the union. Nevertheless, she was still obligated before the right to work law went into ef fect to pay dues to the union. She had a checko agreement to facilitate that payment. But when her obligation to pay ceased on July 1, 2015, she sought to revoke the checko agreement as of July 31. The union refused to honor her revocation re quest because, according to the union, the request didn’t com ply with the collective bargaining agreement. Aplin filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce De velopment, and that agency agreed that the union had com mitted an unfair labor practice by refusing to accept a revoca tion deemed lawful under state law. The union sought declaratory and injunctive relief in fed eral court on the ground that Wisconsin’s restriction of checko agreements is preempted by federal law. The district court agreed, concluding that it was bound by the Supreme Court’s summary a rmance in SeaPak. Int’l Ass’n of Machin ists Dist. 10 v. Allen, No. 16 cv 77 wmc, 2016 WL 7475720 (W.D. Wis. Dec. 28, 2016). Wisconsin appealed. No. 17 1178 37 II. Analysis Preemption arises from the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which says federal law “shall be the supreme Law of the Land … any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2. Since state law may not contradict federal law, sometimes the latter will render the former unenforceable. Preemption “may be either express or implied,” Fidelity Fed. Savings & Loan Ass’n v. de la Cuesta, 458 U.S. 141, 152–53 (1982), but this case concerns implied preemption because “the [National Labor Relations Act] contains no express pre emption provision,” Chamber of Commerce v. Brown, 554 U.S. 60, 65 (2008); see also 520 S. Mich. Ave. Assocs., Ltd. v. Shannon, 549 F.3d 1119, 1125 (7th Cir. 2008). In implied preemption cases, we presume that “a state law should be sustained ‘unless it conflicts with federal law or would frustrate the federal scheme, or unless the courts dis cern from the totality of the circumstances that Congress sought to occupy the field to the exclusion of the States.’” 520 S. Mich. Ave., 549 F.3d at 1125 (quoting Malone v. White Motor Corp., 435 U.S. 497, 504 (1978)). Typically, “[i]mplied preemp tion analysis does not justify a ‘free wheeling judicial inquiry into whether a state statute is in tension with federal objec tives’; such an endeavor ‘would undercut the principle that it is Congress rather than the courts that preempts state law.’” Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, 563 U.S. 582, 607 (2011) (quot ing Gade v. Nat’l Solid Wastes Mgmt. Ass’n, 505 U.S. 88, 111 (1992) (Kennedy, J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment)). Consistent with that principle, we generally “as sume that ‘the historic police powers of the States’ are not su perseded ‘unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of 38 No. 17 1178 Congress.’” Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387, 400 (2012) (quoting Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218, 230 (1947)). Most importantly, “[e]vidence of pre emptive pur pose is sought in the text and structure of the statute at issue.” CSX Transp., Inc. v. Easterwood, 507 U.S. 658, 664 (1993). In typ ical preemption cases, courts no longer attempt to read the tea leaves to determine congressional intent. See Kurns v. R.R. Friction Prods. Corp., 565 U.S. 625, 638 (2012) (Kagan, J., con curring). But this case concerns labor law. Must we throw general preemption principles, meant to preserve the traditional po lice power of the States, out the window in this context? The court thinks so. To that end, it contends that the SeaPak deci sion was an early application of (or at least consistent with) Machinists preemption. Machinists preemption is a species of field preemption in labor law that “forbids both the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and States to regulate conduct that Congress intended ‘be unregulated because left to be con trolled by the free play of economic forces.’” Brown, 554 U.S. at 65 (quoting Machinists, 427 U.S. at 140) (some internal quo tation marks omitted). The rationale is that Congress’ choice to protect and prohibit certain labor practices (in Sections 7 and 8 of the NLRA) implies congressional intent that what ever it did not protect or prohibit in those sections was meant to be left to bargaining, unregulated by the States. See 520 S. Mich. Ave., 549 F.3d at 1125–26. Because of this assumption regarding congressional in tent, Machinists preemption is in some tension with general field preemption principles. As several justices have noted, “recent cases have frequently rejected field pre emption in the absence of statutory language expressly requiring it.” Kurns, No. 17 1178 39 565 U.S. at 640–41 (Sotomayor, J., concurring in part and dis senting in part) (quoting Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 617 (1997) (Thomas, J., dissent ing)); see also id. at 638 (Kagan, J., concurring) (criticizing a 1920s application of field preemption as an “anachronism,” noting that “Congress had ‘manifest[ed] the intention to oc cupy the entire field of regulating locomotive equipment,’ based on nothing more than a statute granting regulatory au thority over that subject matter to a federal agency.”).1 Com mentators, too, have noticed the Court’s recent move away from broad application of field preemption. See Lauren Gil bert, Immigrant Laws, Obstacle Preemption and the Lost Legacy of McCulloch, 33 Berkeley J. Emp. & Lab. L. 153, 160 (2012) (“Consistent with the emphasis on states rights in modern Commerce Clause and Tenth Amendment cases, the Court has tended over the last fifteen years to narrow the availability of field preemption and obstacle preemption, absent clear ev idence of Congressional intent.” (footnote omitted)). But Ma chinists preemption necessarily infers congressional intent from silence. As then Justice Rehnquist put it, “[t]he entire body of this Court’s labor law pre emption doctrine has been built on a series of implications as to congressional intent in the face of congressional silence, so that we now have an elab orate pre emption doctrine traceable not to any expression of 1 The court points out that the Supreme Court in Kurns still followed the arguably anachronistic preemption holding. But the Court’s commit ment to stare decisis is far stronger when it has issued an opinion on the merits than when the prior case is only a summary disposition. Ill. State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173, 180–81 (1979). So while stare decisis could have justified the result in Kurns (especially in a statutory case), the same might not be true were the Court to reevaluate SeaPak. 40 No. 17 1178 Congress, but only to statements by this Court in its previous opinions of what Congress must have intended.” Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles, 475 U.S. 608, 623 (1986) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). Despite this tension, the Court has given no indication that Machinists is in danger of being overruled. See Brown, 554 U.S. at 68–69. Yet the 2008 Brown decision, holding that a Califor nia law restricting certain speech about unions was preempted by the NLRA, relied in part on an express provi sion of the NLRA, Section 8(c), which “expressly precludes regulation of speech about unionization ‘so long as the com munications do not contain a threat of reprisal or force or promise of benefit.’” Id. at 68 (quoting NLRB v. Gissel Packing Co., 395 U.S. 575, 618 (1969)). The Court said the existence of Section 8(c) (codified at 29 U.S.C. § 158(c)) made that case “easier” than the typical NLRA preemption case “because it does not require us ‘to decipher the presumed intent of Con gress in the face of that body’s steadfast silence.’” Id. (quoting Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Carpenters, 436 U.S. 180, 188 n.12 (1978)). And before Brown, the Court hadn’t found a state law preempted under Machinists since Golden State in 1986.2 So, while Machinists is certainly still good law, I would hesitate to extend it beyond its current boundaries. After all, even in the labor context, the Supreme Court is “reluctant to infer pre emption.” Building & Const. Trades Council of Metro. 2 In Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 117 n.11 (1994), the Court men tioned Machinists preemption in a footnote, saying that in that particular case the difference between typical conflict preemption and Machinists was “entirely semantic, depending on whether Livadas s right is charac terized as implicit in the structure of the Act (as was the right to self help upheld in Machinists) or as rooted in the text of § 7.” No. 17 1178 41 Dist. v. Associated Builders & Contractors of Mass./R.I., Inc., 507 U.S. 218, 224 (1993). “Federal labor law in this sense is inter stitial, supplementing state law where compatible, and sup planting it only when it prevents the accomplishment of the purposes of the federal Act.” Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Massachu setts, 471 U.S. 724, 756 (1985). This leaves three main questions. First, can SeaPak be re cast as a Machinists preemption case? If it cannot, can it be jus tified under modern general preemption doctrine? And if that does not work, must we still follow it simply because it is a merits decision of the Supreme Court and it has not been overruled? I will take these in turn. A. SeaPak as a Machinists Case The court contends that the Machinists preemption doc trine supports the SeaPak summary a rmance. It essentially seeks to recast SeaPak as a Machinists preemption case. Yet I cannot find any cases describing SeaPak this way.3 On the other hand, courts have interpreted SeaPak as a general field preemption case (with no mention of Machinists). Most re cently, the Sixth Circuit characterized SeaPak as holding that “[a]llowing dual regulation under federal and state law would undermine Congress’s purposes and contravene field preemption.” United Auto., Aerospace, & Agric. Implement 3 The district court in Georgia State AFL CIO v. Olens, 194 F. Supp. 3d 1322, 1330–31 n.5 (N.D. Ga. 2016), noted in a footnote that “[d]espite reg ulation determining the boundaries of bargaining in this regard, the NLRA left a window between revocable checkoff authorizations and ir revocable authorizations up to a year that would appear susceptible to a challenge under Machinist [sic] preemption as well.” But the court did not characterize SeaPak as a Machinists case. Rather, it said that even putting SeaPak to one side, Machinists preemption might also apply. 42 No. 17 1178 Workers of Am. Local 3047 v. Hardin Cty., 842 F.3d 407, 421 (6th Cir. 2016). The court held that “[t]he analysis set forth in SeaPak is not conclusive, but it bears the Supreme Court’s im primatur and its authority remains essentially unchallenged by any conflicting case law authority.” Id.; see also United Food & Commercial Workers Local 99 v. Bennett, 934 F. Supp. 2d 1167, 1181–82 (D. Ariz. 2013) (“In finding that the Georgia statute was preempted, the trial judge appeared to rely on both con flict and field preemption.”). Further, the SeaPak district court failed to mention any cases that the Supreme Court relied on to establish the Ma chinists preemption doctrine seven years later. Instead, it dis cussed both conflict and field preemption. The court first con cluded that the federal and state statutes were “completely at odds” and could not “coexist.” SeaPak, 300 F. Supp. at 1200. This was plainly wrong, since Georgia’s law requiring checko authorizations to be revocable at will did not violate federal law; it was possible to comply with both provisions. Second, the court found “[t]he area of checko of union dues has been federally occupied to such an extent under [Section 302] that no room remains for state regulation in the same field.” Id. For support, the court noted that the original ver sion of the legislation in the House would have made it an unfair labor practice for checko authorizations to be irrevo cable for more than 30 days, but a Senate amendment re moved that provision. Id. The court rhetorically asked whether, if the legislation had included the original House version of the checko restriction, it would “have amounted to a clear Congressional mandate governing deduction of un ion dues in every state?” Id. Of course, it would have, so the court said it couldn’t “be persuaded that Federal preemption fails merely because Congress saw fit to adopt a less liberal No. 17 1178 43 power of revocation and then incorporated it in a proviso.” Id. Such an analysis is not comparable to Machinists preemption, but to anachronistic field preemption cases that have fallen out of favor in recent years. I would conclude that SeaPak was decided as a general field preemption case.4 Even so, leaving SeaPak to one side, does Machinists re quire preemption of the Wisconsin regulation here? Admit tedly, “congressional intent to shield a zone of activity from regulation is usually found only ‘implicit[ly] in the structure of the Act[.]’” Brown, 554 U.S. at 68 (quoting Livadas, 512 U.S. at 117 n.11). This means that States cannot legislate on top of the protections of Section 7 of the NLRA or the prohibitions of Section 8, on the theory that Congress intended everything else to be left to bargaining. See Cannon v. Edgar, 33 F.3d 880, 885 (7th Cir. 1994); 520 S. Mich. Ave., 549 F.3d at 1125–26. Had Congress included the language of Section 302(c)(4) of Taft Hartley alongside the prohibitions of Section 8 of the NLRA, I might be persuaded that the rationale of Machinists required preemption of state regulations mandating shorter periods of irrevocability for checko s. Yet, that is not what happened. Instead, the language appears as an exception to a criminal law otherwise barring employers from giving any thing of value to unions.5 29 U.S.C. § 186(a). And as Wisconsin 4 Nothing in the question presented or the limited briefing available from the SeaPak appeals demonstrates that the Fifth Circuit or the Su preme Court considered Machinists like arguments either. 5 The court says that Section 302(c)(4)’s placement as a criminal law, rather than, say, an unfair labor practice prohibited under Section 8 of the NLRA, simply means that Congress was really committed to the issue. Surely, Congress was concerned with the extended irrevocability of 44 No. 17 1178 points out, the Department of Justice, not the NLRB, enforces Section 302’s criminal prohibition. Section 302(c)(4)’s position as a safe harbor exception to a criminal law, rather than as a regulation of the collective bargaining process under Sections 7 and 8 of the NLRA, counsels against a finding of preemp tion. Moreover, Congress does not “hide elephants in mouse holes.” Whitman v. Am. Trucking Ass’ns, 531 U.S. 457, 468 (2001). If Congress intended to grant unions an a rmative right to bargain for checko agreements irrevocable for a year, it seems highly unlikely it would have placed the lan guage of Section 302(c)(4) in a “provided that” clause of an exception to an anti bribery statute. Cf. City of Chicago v. Ses sions, 888 F.3d 272, 285 (7th Cir. 2018) (noting that “[a] clause in a catch all provision at the end of a list of explicit powers would be an odd place indeed to put a sweeping power to impose any conditions on any grants”). Further cutting against Machinists preemption is that dues checko is “designed as a provision for the administrative convenience in the collection of union dues.” NLRB v. Atlanta Printing Specialties and Paper Prods. Union 527, AFL CIO, 523 F.2d 783, 786 (5th Cir. 1975). As the Fifth Circuit explained, “Section 302 generally prohibits payments from employers to unions, in order to prevent corruption, but Subsection (c)(4) makes an exception for dues deductions, provided that the checkoff agreements. But Section 302 is primarily a prohibition of em ployer payments to unions, not a regulation of the collective bargaining process. Checkoffs are only permitted in the first instance as an exception to this general rule, and generally because they are convenient. The struc ture of the section thus indicates that Congress likely intended simply to place a limit, for the benefit of employees, on its allowance of checkoff agreements. I do not believe we can infer preemption from such a statu tory structure. No. 17 1178 45 employee gives voluntary written consent. The emphasis is on protection of the employee, not the union.” Id. The same is true of the one year limit on irrevocability. If Section 302(c)(4) grants rights to anyone (and it does not appear to do so), it is the employee, who is entitled to exercise his or her free choice to revoke checko agreements. See id. at 786–87; Felter v. S. Pac. Co., 359 U.S. 326, 333 (1959) (limitations on checko agreements are a matter of the “employee’s freedom of deci sion”). In light of this, I cannot agree that Section 302(c)(4) grants unions the right to bargain for one year of irrevocabil ity. Nor can I conclude that Congress, in permitting limited checko agreements for convenience, intended to prevent the States from further preserving an employee’s right to freedom of choice. As this case demonstrates, the revocability of dues checko agreements can pit an individual employee, who de sires to revoke her checko authorization, against the union, which would prefer to receive automatic dues for the remain der of the agreement. That this case is about employee free dom from the union substantially distinguishes it from the typical Machinists case dealing with “Congress’ intentional balance between the power of management and labor to fur ther their respective interests by use of their respective eco nomic weapons.” Cannon, 33 F.3d at 885. While management and labor may bargain over the existence and terms of checko agreements, neither side adequately represents the freedom of employees to revoke their agreements. It is in the union’s interest to procure the maximum irrevocability pe riod allowed under the law, not to bargain for the best inter ests of its members. Simply put, this case does not involve the same type of regulation of collective bargaining that has jus tified Machinists preemption in the past. 46 No. 17 1178 Lastly, the court says that the Supreme Court reached the “same conclusion” as SeaPak in Felter, but I do not see how Felter helps the court. That case was about whether, under the Railway Labor Act’s checko provision, a union could require an employee to submit his revocation on a particular form fur nished by the union. The provision at issue stated that no checko agreement “shall be e ective with respect to any in dividual employee until he shall have furnished the employer with a written assignment to the labor organization … which shall be revocable in writing after the expiration of one year … .” Id. at 327. The Supreme Court held that Congress in tended employees to be able to freely revoke their agreements after the year was up. It saw “no authority given by the Act to carriers and labor organizations to restrict the employee’s in dividual freedom of decision” in collective bargaining. Id. at 333. Felter was not a preemption case. It simply interpreted the terms of a particular statute that granted a limited authority to labor and management to bargain for checko agreements, subject to each employee’s ability to revoke his agreement af ter a year. To be sure, the Supreme Court held that labor and management could not bargain for additional requirements beyond “a written assignment,” but it said so because it inter preted the statute as preserving employee freedom. The up to one year provision in Section 302(c)(4) is similar in that it protects employees from certain bargaining decisions. In some ways, that makes these provisions counter examples for Machinists preemption. Rather than reserving a zone of free dom for bargaining, the statutes in Felter and here reserve a zone of freedom for employee choice. I cannot conclude that Machinists precludes States from expanding that zone. No. 17 1178 47 In sum, I conclude that the Wisconsin law is not preempted under Machinists.6 Therefore, I must continue to determine whether the SeaPak district court’s general preemp tion conclusions are still binding on us today. B. SeaPak under Modern General Preemption Doctrine Can SeaPak withstand scrutiny under modern preemption doctrine? First, a quick review of general implied preemption. It “comes in two types: (1) field preemption, which arises when the federal regulatory scheme is so pervasive or the fed eral interest so dominant that it may be inferred that Congress 6 The court also suggests that the Wisconsin law might be preempted under San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236 (1959). In Garmon, “the Court held that ‘[w]hen an activity is arguably subject to § 7 or § 8 of the Act, the States as well as the federal courts must defer to the exclusive competence of the National Labor Relations Board if the danger of state interference with national policy is to be averted.’” NLRB v. State of Ill. Dep’t of Emp’t Sec., 988 F.2d 735, 738 (7th Cir. 1993) (quoting Garmon, 359 U.S. at 245). This case does not concern activity even arguably pro tected by Section 7 or prohibited by Section 8 of the NLRA. Moreover, Garmon preemption “seeks to protect the NLRB s primary jurisdiction in cases involving sections 7 and 8 of the NLRA.” 520 S. Mich. Ave., 549 F.3d at 1125. But the NLRB has no jurisdiction here; it does not enforce Section 302 of the Taft Hartley Act. Further, I would not consider a checkoff agreement to be a wage related term of employment under Section 8(a)(5) of the NLRA. A checkoff is a device of convenience that allows an employee to more easily pay union dues. It has no effect on the employee’s wages or work conditions. Even where the union and management bargain for the existence of checkoffs, employees need not take advantage of them. It is hard to see how a voluntary agreement to pay union dues out of one’s paycheck would constitute a term of employment at all. For these reasons, I would conclude that Garmon preemption is inap plicable. 48 No. 17 1178 intended to occupy the entire legislative field; and (2) conflict preemption, which arises when state law conflicts with fed eral law to the extent that ‘compliance with both federal and state regulations is a physical impossibility,’ or the state law ‘stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’” Planned Parenthood of Ind., Inc., v. Comm’r of Ind. State Dep’t of Health, 699 F.3d 962, 984 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Arizona, 567 U.S. at 399). So we have three types of preemption: field preemption and two species of conflict preemption known as impossibil ity and obstacle preemption. Importantly, preemption analy sis “begins with a presumption against preemption and fo cuses first on the text of the statute.” Id. Impossibility preemption applies only where it is actually “impossible for a private party to comply with both the state and federal law.” Patriotic Veterans, Inc. v. Indiana, 736 F.3d 1041, 1049 (7th Cir. 2013). Although the SeaPak district court said that the federal and state statutes in that case were “com pletely at odds” and could not “coexist,” SeaPak, 300 F. Supp. at 1200, it was plainly wrong. Like the revocable at will pro vision at issue in SeaPak, the 30 day irrevocability period now mandated by Wisconsin law does not violate federal law. Fed eral law makes an employer payment to a union under a checko agreement a crime only if such agreement is irrevo cable for more than one year. The 30 day Wisconsin period falls within the safe harbor exception granted by Section 302(c)(4) of the Taft Hartley Act. Since a 30 day irrevocability No. 17 1178 49 period complies with both state and federal law, SeaPak can not be justified under impossibility preemption.7 Regarding obstacle preemption, the SeaPak district court attempted to ascertain the purpose behind Section 302(c)(4), noting that Senate debate revealed “deep concern about checko s and the period during which they may be irrevoca ble.” Id. The court theorized that “Congress ‘was not indi er ent to that subject, but on the contrary, was so vitally inter ested therein, that it established certain conditions precedent which an employer must meet before he may ‘check o ’ membership dues.’” Id. (quoting State v. Montgomery Ward & Co., 233 P.2d 685, 688 (Utah 1951)). That finding was enough for the district court to hold Georgia’s checko restriction preempted for creating an obstacle to the enforcement of fed eral law. This analysis was questionable in 1969, but it is totally un tenable today. As I noted above, today’s “[i]mplied preemp tion analysis does not justify a ‘freewheeling judicial inquiry into whether a state statute is in tension with federal objec tives’; such an endeavor ‘would undercut the principle that it is Congress rather than the courts that preempts state law.’” Whiting, 563 U.S. at 607 (quoting Gade, 505 U.S. at 111 ((Ken nedy, J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment)). Looking to the text and structure of the law, and keeping in mind the presumption against preemption, I would conclude that obstacle preemption is inapplicable here. That is for 7 The text of Section 8 of the NLRA provides no indication that a 30 day period of irrevocability would constitute an unfair labor practice un der federal law, so I do not see how the NLRB could possibly sanction any private parties for complying with Wisconsin law. 50 No. 17 1178 much the same reason that I have already concluded Machin ists is inapplicable, although the finding comes easier in the general preemption context since we need not worry about the inferences drawn from congressional silence that perme ate Machinists cases. In short, nothing in the text of the NLRA, Taft Hartley generally, or Section 302(c)(4) specifically indi cates any federal objective that would be frustrated by Wis consin’s regulation. Finally, we have general field preemption. In its most sweeping conclusion, the SeaPak district court declared that “[t]he area of checko of union dues has been federally occu pied to such an extent under [Section 302] that no room re mains for state regulation in the same field.” SeaPak, 300 F. Supp. at 1200. It reached this conclusion relying entirely on legislative history. See supra at 9. But, as discussed above, “re cent cases have frequently rejected field pre emption in the absence of statutory language expressly requiring it.” Kurns, 565 U.S. at 640–41 (Sotomayor, J., concurring in part and dis senting in part) (quoting Camps Newfound/Owatonna, 520 U.S. at 617 (Thomas, J., dissenting)). The preemption theory the SeaPak district court advanced was entirely atextual, based in stead on words Congress rejected. SeaPak, 300 F. Supp. at 1200. While such cavalier use of legislative history to determine congressional intent was commonplace at the time, see Citi zens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 412 n.29 (1971) (where the legislative history is ambiguous, courts should look to the statute to determine legislative intent), it has thankfully fallen out of favor, see Lamie v. U.S. Trustee, 540 U.S. 526, 534, 536 (2004) (even though a statute was “awk ward” and “ungrammatical,” it was not ambiguous and so the Court could not consult legislative history). No court to day would find that Congress intended to occupy an entire No. 17 1178 51 field based on language that failed to make it into the final bill. Writing on a clean slate, I would conclude that Wisconsin should be permitted to enforce its limitation on dues checko agreements. Nevertheless, I recognize that the Supreme Court’s summary disposition in SeaPak retains some prece dential force. Thus, the final question is whether, even assum ing SeaPak was wrongly decided, we should still follow it. C. Is SeaPak Still Binding? Unlike a denial of certiorari, a summary disposition of the Supreme Court is a decision on the merits of a case. See Hicks v. Miranda, 422 U.S. 332, 344 (1975). Therefore, “unless and until the Supreme Court should instruct otherwise,” inferior courts should treat summary dispositions as binding “except when doctrinal developments indicate otherwise.” Id. (quot ing Port Auth. Bondholders Protective Comm. v. Port of N.Y. Auth., 387 F.2d 259, 263 n.3 (2d Cir. 1967)).8 Not surprisingly, the scope of that “doctrinal developments” exception has been the subject of significant debate. In Baskin v. Bogan, 766 F.3d 648 (7th Cir. 2014), this court considered the constitutionality of the marriage laws of Indi ana and Wisconsin. We confronted the Supreme Court’s sum mary disposition in Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972) 8 As I noted above, the Supreme Court has said “that summary affir mances have considerably less precedential value than an opinion on the merits.” Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. at 180–81. However, this appears to apply only to the Supreme Court’s decisions whether to overrule its own cases. As a lower court, we are bound by summary affirmances unless the Hicks doctrinal developments exception applies. 52 No. 17 1178 (mem.), which had dismissed an appeal from a same sex cou ple challenging Minnesota’s marriage laws “for want of a sub stantial federal question.” That decision was no longer bind ing on the lower courts, we said, because subsequent doctri nal developments in cases like Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), and United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), “make clear that Baker is no longer authoritative.” Baskin, 766 F.3d at 660. We so concluded even though none of those cases had questioned Baker’s con clusion that no federal constitutional right to same sex mar riage existed. Indeed, on the same day it decided Windsor, the Supreme Court also ruled in Hollingsworth v. Perry, 570 U.S. 693 (2013), that it lacked jurisdiction to address the marriage question. See also Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 585 (O’Connor, J., con curring in the judgment) (“Texas cannot assert any legitimate state interest here, such as national security or preserving the traditional institution of marriage.” (emphasis added)). The Court ultimately addressed that question in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015), but we didn’t think it necessary to wait for the Court to overrule its summary disposition in Baker before we invalidated the Indiana and Wisconsin laws.9 9 Not everyone shares our willingness to “jump the gun” on “overrul ing” the Supreme Court’s supposedly “outdated” cases. In the same mar riage context, the Sixth Circuit insisted that Baker was still binding on lower courts. Judge Sutton wrote that circuit courts may only “ignore a Supreme Court decision” in two circumstances: “when the Court has overruled the decision by name (if, say, Windsor had directly overruled Baker) or when the Court has overruled the decision by outcome (if, say, Hollingsworth had invalidated the California law without mentioning Baker).” DeBoer v. Snyder, 772 F.3d 388, 401 (6th Cir. 2014), rev’d on other grounds sub nom. Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015). In his view, “[a]ny other approach returns us to a world in which the lower courts may anticipatorily overrule all manner of Supreme Court decisions based on No. 17 1178 53 If we were willing to discard Baker in light of these cases, the same should apply here. As I have demonstrated, the Su preme Court’s preemption jurisprudence has evolved signifi cantly since SeaPak. The Court is now much more sensitive to federalism concerns and far less likely to imply preemption from ambiguous statutes or legislative history. The SeaPak dis trict court’s analysis perhaps made some sense in 1969, but it cannot stand alongside modern preemption doctrine. There fore, under Baskin, I would no longer regard it as binding. III. Conclusion Wisconsin has challenged a decades old Supreme Court summary a rmance preventing it from legislating to provide employees additional freedom to revoke agreements to check o union dues from their paychecks. I conclude that the prec edential value of that case, SeaPak v. Industrial, Technical & Pro fessional Employees, 400 U.S. 985 (1971) (mem.), has been so eroded by changes to preemption doctrine that we should no longer follow it. The court, perhaps sensing that SeaPak is on weak ground under general preemption principles, mostly defends it as an early application of labor specific Machinists preemption. But not only was SeaPak not a Machinists case, Machinists is inapplicable to the Wisconsin law as a matter of first impression. Nor can the result be justified under modern preemption doctrine, which grants the States far more lati tude to legislate alongside federal law than they once had. counting to five predictions, perceived trajectories in the caselaw, or, worst of all, new appointments to the Court.” Id. I am sympathetic to Judge Sutton’s narrower approach to the Hicks exception, but Baskin remains the law in our circuit. If it were otherwise, this dissent would take the form of an opinion concurring in the judgment. 54 No. 17 1178 I do not lightly recommend declining to follow Supreme Court precedent. But the SeaPak decision cannot stand up to scrutiny under today’s preemption doctrines. I am convinced that a court deciding this case today, writing on a clean slate, would find Wisconsin’s law not preempted. The changes to preemption doctrine have been so significant that we need no longer follow SeaPak. Therefore, Wisconsin should be permit ted to enforce its limitation on dues checko provisions. I respectfully dissent.

Primary Holding

Wisconsin’s attempt to impose a different standard for the length of time that a union dues‐checkoff agreement may be irrevocable is preempted by federal law.

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