Judge rules Indiana anti-union law unconstitutional

An Indiana judge has ruled that the state’s so-called right to work law is unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge John M. Sedia made his ruling in response to a suit filed by the president and members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, which represents operating engineers in Northwestern Indiana and the suburbs of Chicago.

“This is a huge victory for the middle class,” said James M. Sweeney, president and business manager for Local 150. “These laws are nothing but thinly-veiled tools to
weaken unions, and this is a big win for workers who rely on unions to provide decent wages and benefits. We pledged on the day that this law was passed that they hadn’t seen the last of us, and we are delighted with this ruling.”

In 2012, Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly and then Gov. Mitch Daniels collaborated to enact a right to work for less law that makes it a criminal offense for unions to collect union dues from workers who refuse to join the union but receive the same union services and benefits as union members do.

Local 150’s suit argued that among other things the law violated Article 1, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution that reads, “No person’s particular services shall be demanded without compensation.”

The judge ruled that by making it a criminal offense for unions to require dues payment, the law denies unions compensation for services that they are required to provide under federal law, which violates Article 1, Section 21.

Despite the judge’s ruling, the right to work for less law will remain in effect pending a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court. A spokesman for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said that the state will appeal the ruling.

Indiana’s right to work law for less law has been touted by Republican leaders as key to attracting new business and jobs to Indiana, but there is little evidence to support this claim.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, a research and policy group that receives some of its funding from labor unions, the Indiana Economic Development Commission, which supports the right to work for less law, in a recent report to the legislature could not name a single employer that moved to Indiana because the right to work law was enacted.

Most of the companies that moved to Indiana made their decision to do so before the law passed.

IEDC in other statements about the success of the new law named five companies that created new jobs and implied that they had moved to Indiana because of the law.

EPI, however, reports that the five firms were already located in Indiana, and although they supported the right to work for less law ,would likely have expanded their workforce anyway.

EPI also reports that while supporters of right to work for less in Indiana have failed to marshal any real evidence about its benefits, there is evidence that these laws weaken workers’ ability to bargain and act collectively, which in turns lowers workers’ wages.

According to research by Elise Gould and Heidi Sherholz of EPI, workers in right to work for less states on average are paid $1,050 less per year than their counterparts in states that don’t have such laws. They are also less likely to have employer sponsored health care and pension benefits.

Recognizing the impact that a right to work for less law would have on Indiana workers, the state’s unions mobilized members to oppose passage of the law.

More than 10,000 workers and their supporters marched on the state capital prior to the laws passage.

The demonstration, however, failed to stop the law from being enacted.

Since then, unions have continued to look for other ways to overturn the law and curtail its impact on workers.

After Judge Sedia’s ruling, Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said that the fight to overturn right to work for less will continue.

“While we are overjoyed that this unsafe, unfair and unnecessary law that was rammed through the Indiana General Assembly has been ruled unconstitutional, the fight is not over.” said Guyott. “Regardless of the appeal or what happens next, the working families of Indiana will not rest until it’s off the books altogether …again.

(Indiana workers in the 1950s overturned a right to work for less law.)

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