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Judge dismisses right to work lawsuit

Updated: February 19, 2013 3:07PM



A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Indiana’s right to work law.

U.S. District Judge Philip Simon said in his order, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, that International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 failed to show its lawsuit against the state could succeed, although two counts can be refiled in the state court system.

Ed Maher, a spokesman for Local 150, said the union will consider moving forward on appeals and in the state court.

Local 150, which represents employees at several companies in Northwest Indiana, sued the state last year soon after the Indiana General Assembly passed the right to work bill, which bans unions and companies making joining the union a requirement to work. The union argued in its lawsuit that the state law violated the U.S. Constitution by overstepping federal authority and that a clause of the law unfairly affected unions in the construction trade.

Simon did dispute the popular name for the bill, right to work, but said that ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states have a right to create such legislation.

“Whether I think this law constitutes wise governance simply doesn’t matter,” he wrote. “If a mistake has been made in passing the law, it is for the citizens to fix through the democratic process.”

He also dismissed arguments by Local 150 that the real reason for the law was to stop unions from exercising their First Amendment rights. Simon said newspapers articles the union submitted give a good enough reason for the law in economic development.

“The union points to the fact that there is no statement of purpose in the right to work law. So what?” Simon wrote.

Simon did say the clause targeting the building trades is essentially redundant and poorly written. However, nothing in it implies the state could start enforcing the right to work law on contracts made before March 2012, which was the start date for the rest of the law.

Even if that were the case, Simon said, Indiana Labor Commissioner Lori Torres has said on the record the state would not enforce the law that way, so the state is now barred from trying to do so.

Simon dismissed two counts that made arguments under the Indiana Constitution, saying they were not in his jurisdiction. However, he is allowing the union to refile those counts in state court.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a release that the state will continue to defend the law.

“The federal court’s decision supports the legal authority and policy decisions of the people’s elected representatives in the legislature, and we appreciate the court’s thorough analysis,” he said.



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