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Judge hears arguments in right to work lawsuit

Updated: January 16, 2013 6:08AM



Attorneys for Indiana and a local union argued Friday afternoon whether a federal lawsuit aimed against the state’s right-to-work law should continue.

The state argued that the lawsuit, filed at U.S. District Court in Hammond by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, should be tossed because the law follows similar right-to-work laws already approved in other states.

“Right to work is not anything new or novel, and we ask the case be dismissed in its entirety,” Wade Hornbacher, deputy attorney general for Indiana, said during the hearing.

Local 150’s lawsuit claims that several parts of the Indiana law, enacted earlier this year, go too far and try to establish control over situations that are legally overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

Dale Pierson, general counsel for Local 150, argued Friday that federal law gave states the right to ban only requiring union membership as a rule for employment with a company. It did not go so far as to allow a ban on union contracts from requiring employees to pay for just the bargaining and grievance activities of a union, which Pierson argued is not full membership.

When U.S. District Judge Philip Simon questioned the chances of this lawsuit succeeding when 25 states have right-to-work laws, Pierson said most of the legal cases on those were settled 50 to 60 decades ago and that the legal landscape of the country has since changed.

Simon still questioned whether it was up to a federal judge to decide the case when, he said, it seemed to be a political issue.

“Isn’t the bottom line that these are political questions, and isn’t the answer to get new legislators?” Simon asked Pierson. “It’s a pretty audacious request.”

Simon did question the third section of the law, which deals specifically with unions in the construction trades. He asked Hornbacher the reason behind it.

“I have to read this sensibly, and quite candidly, it’s not sensible,” Simon said.

Hornbacher argued that even if Simon found that section unconstitutional that the rest of the law could survive. However, Pierson said the section is one of the main components of the law and can’t be severed from the rest of it, so that if Simon were to rule against it, the whole law should be tossed.

Simon will issue a written order on the matter, although he did not give a deadline.



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