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Union sues over right-to-work law

February 23, 2012

A northern Indiana labor organization has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Mitch Daniels and other state actors over the recent enactment of legislation that made Indiana a “right-to-work” state.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, AFL-CIO; and representatives and members of the union filed the suit Wednesday in federal court in Hammond.

Daniels signed the legislation into law Feb. 1. Section 8 of the law says that a person doesn’t have to join a union or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. The law, Indiana Code 22-6-6, took effect immediately for the building and construction industry, and the law applied to written or oral contracts entered into, modified or extended after March 14, 2012, in other areas.

Local 150 had and still has collective bargaining agreements in effect with building and construction industry employers in Indiana, according to the suit. The right-to-work law “substantially impairs the contractual relationships that Local 150 has with these building and construction industry employers,” the plaintiffs argue.

The suit alleges that the law violates equal protection under the federal and state constitutions, Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution, and Article 1, sections 21 and 24 of the state constitution. The plaintiffs challenge the portion of the law that institutes criminal penalties for violating Section 8.

The plaintiffs want the court to declare that the right-to-work law is invalid in its entirety and prevent the state from enforcing the law.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who is named as a defendant in the suit, said in a release shortly after the case was filed that the office will “diligently” defend the law, as is the office’s duty.

“Legal challenges are part of the process to test whether laws are constitutional. Though we respect the right of private plaintiffs to disagree with this new law, the state’s position is that the Legislature was within its authority to create a new policy concerning mandatory union dues,” he said.

 

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