Business and Economics

Indiana Supreme Court Hears Right-To-Work Arguments

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September 4, 2014 — The Associated Press — An Indiana Supreme Court justice called the state’s right-to-work law “anti-union legislation” as the court heard arguments on whether the law violates the state constitution.

Justice Steven David made the statement Thursday as the justices prodded both sides with questions about the law that bans mandatory union dues.

Attorneys for the northwest Indiana local of the Operating Engineers’ union want the court to uphold a Lake County judge’s ruling that found the law violates part of the state Constitution barring anyone from being forced to provide a service for free. Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office wants that local decision overturned.

Solicitor General Thomas Fisher says the law protects the rights of individuals in the workplace.

Thursday’s hearing came two days after a federal appeals court upheld the federal constitutionality of Indiana right-to-work law.

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From TheStatehouseFile.com – The state’s right-to-work law violates the Indiana Constitution because it requires unions to provide services to non-members without compensation, an attorney representing labor groups told the state’s highest court Thursday.

But a lawyer for the attorney general said the constitutional provision in question would only apply if the state itself were demanding services without pay. In this case, the state is merely regulating a transaction between private entities, said Solicitor General Tom Fisher.  “This is standard regulatory fare,” Fisher said told the justices. “There’s nothing unusual about this law.”
The right to work law essentially frees workers from paying fees to unions they don’t join. The Republican-controlled legislature passed it in 2012 over the objections of Democrats and labor leaders – as well as thousands of union members who protested at the Statehouse – who said the law would lead to lower wages and unsafe workplaces. Supporters said it would make Indiana a more attractive place to do business.

On Thursday, Dale Pierson, a lawyer for representing the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, told the court that unions granted bargaining rights at a company are required by federal law to represent all workers, even if they aren’t members. In the past, the unions could charge fees to non-members for those services. But the right-to-work law changed that.

“We cannot collect any money any more and that’s a big loss for us,” Pierson told the court. “It jacks up the cost to the members.”

Thursday’s oral arguments were the first under new Chief Justice Loretta Rush. She got right to work, interrupting Fisher just minutes into his arguments.

Rush, who was appointed to the court two years ago, replaced former Chief Justice Brent Dickson, who stepped down from the top job but remains a member of the court.

 

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