Madison Litigator Lester Pines On Employee Rights and Unions

In the upcoming edition of Wisconsin Super Lawyer & Rising Stars, we talk with Lester Pines, a general litigation attorney with Cullen Weston Pines & Bach in Madison, Wisconsin, about his representation of the Madison teachers union during Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting battle earlier this year.

Pines also told us his views on the future of employee rights and what unions need to do to regain their clout.

"The more unhappy employees get, the more they work together, so if the CEOs continue to make employees unhappy, they're going to find themselves having to deal with their employees: either their employees saying screw you, I quit; or their employees saying, 'If you really need me to do this thing, you're going to have to work with me and here's what I need.' Whether the employees do that by forming a union or by otherwise working together, it will happen. It does happen, it happens every day and we also work with people who are not members of unions, who sometimes do resort to collective action even they're not in a union, and find actually quite a good deal of success in getting things done that they need to get done in order not to work in a crappy, crappy environment. ...

"In my opinion, the unions are going to have to go back to their basic roots and organize the people who they can organize and keep organized, and exercise raw economic power and not depend on laws to protect their rights. In Wisconsin, we're actually back to the 1920s in terms of labor relations. Nationally it's not quite as bad, but it's close. Eventually, the unions will have to just go back to their basic tools of extracting concessions through economic power, and due-process protections from the so-called National Labor Relations Board or the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission be damned. ... One of the great things about the law, one of the great things about democracy, is that when there's a push in one place, there's a pull in another. So if you push the unions out in a certain way, they're going to have the ability to come back in a different way. And that, I think, is what's going to happen."