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Policy: Labor

Second judge rules against Indiana right-to-work law

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,Indiana,Right to work

A second judge has ruled Indiana's right-to-work law unconstitutional, a major victory for labor unions who complained the law places an unfair burden on unions.

In the latest ruling, Lake County Circuit Court Special Judge George Paras also ordered this latest decision to go into effect immediately before any appeal.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller asked the judge to stay ruling until it can be appealed. Paras' ruling was made July 17 but only revealed by Zoeller's office on Wednesday when he asked for the stay.

The Indiana Supreme Court is already set to hear an appeal on Sept. 4 based on a 2013 ruling against the law. The cases might be consolidated.

"Strong opinions exist on both sides about involuntary union dues, but the Attorney General’s Office has a duty to defend the laws the Legislature passes from legal challenges plaintiffs file. If a trial court finds a law unconstitutional, then the appropriate action is to stay its ruling pending the appeal," Zoeller said.

In most labor-management contracts, unions typically demand a provision — called a "security clause" or a "closed shop rule" — requiring that all employees either join the union or at least pay it dues. This is ostensibly to cover the costs of the union's collective bargaining on behalf of work.

In 24 states, though, including Indiana starting in late 2012, such contract provisions are outlawed. Proponents of these right-to-work laws argue that it is unfair to force an individual to pay money to any organization when they do not want to be a member. Big Labor hates these laws, which are typically associated with membership declines as members use their new rights. In many cases, the employees never had a chance to vote on the union in the first place, having joined already-unionized businesses.

Paras ruled that the right-to-work law unfairly requires unions to provide services to employees without being paid because most labor contracts make the union the exclusive representative for all workers. That means only the union can bargain on behalf of employees. Individual employees cannot even do it for themselves.

Big Labor claimed vindication. "It's obviously a victory for workers," Indiana AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies told Indianapolis's WISH-TV Wednesday. "It proves that, not only once but twice now, a judge has ruled that it’s unconstitutional."

Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, the state lawmaker who authored the law, had a different take: "The fact that they have to sue to try to force people to belong to their organization because there are people who don't want to, yeah, that shows you exactly why we needed a right to work law in the first place."

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Sean Higgins

Senior Writer
The Washington Examiner

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