Wyatt Employment Law Report

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Indiana’s New “Right To Work” Law Survives Constitutional Challenge

By John W. Woodard, Jr.

A local union’s federal lawsuit challenging Indiana’s new “right to work” law on constitutional grounds has been dismissed.  In 2012, Indiana became the 23rd state to enact “right to work” legislation prohibiting “union security clauses” in union contracts with employers.  Many argue that union security clauses strengthen unions by conditioning employment on a worker joining the union or at least paying fees to the union.   “Right to work” laws, it is claimed, contribute to a business friendly environment, attract companies, and encourage job growth.  In an action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, the union contended the law was unconstitutional.  The district judge disagreed and dismissed the union’s lawsuit finding that “[n]one of the legal challenges launched by the Union … to attack Indiana’s new Right to Work law can succeed.”   The union has filed an appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  A copy of the district court’s January 17, 2013 ruling can be found here: \\loufs1\users\EHOPSON\My Documents\IN Court Memo and Order.pdf.

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The Legal Challenge to Indiana’s Right-To-Work Law May Be Foundering

By John W. Woodard

The legal challenge to Indiana’s new business-friendly right-to-work law may be short lived.  Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers sued in federal court claiming the law is both unconstitutional and pre-empted by federal labor law.   The Union has withdrawn its motion for a TRO enjoining enforcement of the law, and the Indiana Attorney General’s office recently filed a motion to dismiss the case.  The A.G.’s supporting memorandum of law  (http://www.wyattfirm.com/uploads/92/doc/Right%20To%20Work%20Memo.pdf ) presents compelling arguments for dismissal – not the least of which being that the United States Supreme Court has validated similar legislation in other states.  See, e.g., Lincoln Fed. Labor Union No. 19129, A.F. of L. v. Nw. Iron & Metal Co., 335 U.S. 525, 532 (1949).

Right-to-work laws prohibit provisions in union contracts which force non-member employees in unionized workplaces to pay “fair share” fees for a union’s collective bargaining efforts and representation. Indiana is the 23rd state to adopt business-friendly right-to-work legislation, and it is the first state to have done so since Oklahoma in 2001. 

Governor Mitch Daniels says the state has heard from a number of companies considering Indiana for location or expansion because of its business-friendly right-to-work law, and Indiana has reportedly signed agreements with at least three companies since the law’s passage.