Lake County judge declares Indiana’s ‘right-to-work’ law unconstitutional
BY CHRISTIN NANCE LAZERUS email@example.com September 9, 2013 8:12PM
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he will appeal the judge's decision. | Post-Tribune File Photo
Updated: October 11, 2013 6:30AM
HAMMOND — Indiana’s “right-to-work” law has been declared unconstitutional by a Lake County Judge.
Lake Superior Court Civil Division Judge John Sedia issued the ruling in a lawsuit brought by Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers and several of its individual members.
The union lawsuit had alleged the law was unconstitutional for five different reasons but the judge, in a ruling filed last week, agreed with them on only one: that by preventing the union from collecting fees from non-union members to cover the cost of bargaining and other services, the law violated the Indiana constitution.
Unions are obligated under federal law to represent workers in their bargaining units, whether they are dues-paying members or not, the judge wrote.
“”Put simply,” Sedia wrote, the state law means that “it becomes a criminal offense for a union to receive just compensation for particular services federal law demands it provide to employees.”
Indiana’s “right to work” law was passed in 2012 amidst heated debate in the General Assembly.
Sedia noted the controversial nature of the law in his decision; he referred to the law only by its numerical citations in the Indiana code.
Sedia wrote that “the Court has purposely avoided using its title” in recognition of the debate “regarding the wisdom or folly of this statute.”
He also noted that “there is no court which is more loathe to declare any state statute unconstitutional than this one,” but that he had “no choice but to find” that the law violates Article I, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution.
“This is a victory for the middle class,” Local 150 president-business manager James M. Sweeney said in a statement. “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.”
His decision, filed Sept. 5, is subject to a mandatory review by the Indiana Supreme Court within the next 30 days. The law remains in effect while it is being appealed.
A spokesman for Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the state was disappointed in the ruling.
“The State will take an immediate appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court of this declaratory judgment which we contend is incorrect, in light of the fact the same court granted the State’s motion to dismiss on four other counts,” said spokesman Bryan Corbin. “The Indiana Attorney General’s Office will aggressively defend the authority of the people’s elected representatives in the Legislature as we successfully defended this same statute from the same plaintiff who challenged it in federal court.”