Federal court judge tosses RTW challenge

2013-01-17T16:30:00Z 2013-01-17T19:53:03Z Federal court judge tosses RTW challengeBowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com
January 17, 2013 4:30 pm  • 

A challenge of the constitutionality of Indiana's right-to-work law in U.S. District Court in Hammond was dismissed Thursday.

Chief Judge Philip Simon granted a motion to dismiss the case on behalf of the defendants, which were former Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and former Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Lori Torres.

Indiana became the nation's 23rd right-to-work state after Daniels signed legislation Feb. 1, 2012, after the Indiana House of Representatives and Senate passed the measure. Simon said right-to-work typically is designed to prohibit clauses in collective bargaining agreements between labor unions and employers that require workers join the union. Indiana's law makes it illegal for workers to be required to pay dues to a labor organization or fees to third parties as a union member.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 filed a lawsuit in February seeking an injunction of the law's implementation. The suit claimed the law violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and violated the Indiana Constitution by requiring unions provide a service without compensation.

Simon declared nearly all of the union's claims were moot or could not be granted relief. Two of the claims pertaining to the Indiana Constitution were dismissed without prejudice to be litigated in state court. A separate lawsuit the United Steelworkers filed last year in Lake County Circuit Court seeking to strike down the right-to-work law is ongoing.

“The federal court’s decision supports the legal authority and policy decisions of the people’s elected representatives in the Legislature, and we appreciate the court’s thorough analysis," Zoeller said in a statement Thursday. "My office will continue to defend the statute from legal challenge or appeal in any future court action."

Ed Maher, spokesman for the Countryside, Ill.-based International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, said following the court decision, the union would review its legal options in the appeals court and in Indiana state court. The union local represents about 4,000 people in Northwest Indiana and has at least 200 collective bargaining agreements with employers in the construction sector and other industries.

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