INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Supreme Court will hear 40 minutes of oral arguments on the constitutionality of the state's right-to-work law Sept. 4.
The controversial 2012 labor statute, which prompted walkouts and boycotts as it moved through the General Assembly, was struck down by Lake Superior Court Judge John Sedia last year as incompatible with the Indiana Constitution.
Sedia determined that because federal law requires unions provide certain bargaining and grievance services to all employees at a unionized workplace, forcing unions to give nonmembers those services free — as mandated by the right-to-work law — violates the Indiana Constitution's guarantee of compensation for services.
Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller asked the Supreme Court to overturn Sedia's ruling, which is on hold while the appeal is pending. The high court's five justices directly review lower court decisions that find state laws unconstitutional.
Zoeller claims the right-to-work law should be restored because it's not the state compelling exclusive-agency unions to provide bargaining services to nonmembers.
"The right-to-work law imposes no demands on unions," Zoeller said. "It merely gives employees in Indiana the choice whether to join a union (or otherwise pay dues) — a choice that is specifically authorized by federal law."
Attorney Dale Pierson, representing the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, which challenged the law, said Zoeller's argument is not believable, because the state is well aware federal law compels unions to treat members and nonmembers the same.
In addition, Pierson said state leaders repeatedly announced their goal of obtaining economic development benefits by enacting a right-to-work law.
"Unions have historically been compensated for (their) services. The Indiana right-to-work law takes that compensation away," Pierson said. "Far from simply ensuring that union membership is entirely voluntary, the state specifically passed its right-to-work law hoping to benefit by this taking."
Following oral arguments, the Supreme Court likely will issue its ruling in early 2015.