INDIANAPOLIS | The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, is urging the Indiana Supreme Court to uphold Lake Superior Judge John Sedia's ruling that portions of the state's 2012 right-to-work law are unconstitutional.
Sedia declared Sept. 5 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.
In its 52-page written argument submitted Feb. 14 to the high court, the union said Sedia got it exactly right and asked the Supreme Court to restore the union's ability to charge "fair share" fees to nonmembers for union services they receive.
"Provided unions could collect fair share fees, the statute would not force unions to perform their particular services — representational services — entirely for free," said union attorney Dale Pierson. "If unions are not forced to perform services for free, then the statute would no longer violate ... the Indiana Constitution."
Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller submitted his argument in December defending the law to the Supreme Court. He claimed 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."
Pierson rejected that argument as unbelievable, because the state is well aware federal law compels unions to treat members and nonmembers the same.
In addition, he said the state's 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."
Sedia's order finding the right-to-work law unconstitutional is suspended while his decision is under appeal. The Indiana Supreme Court directly reviews all judicial declarations of unconstitutional laws
The high court's five justices likely will hear oral arguments in the case later this year.