State judge rules Indiana's right-to-work law unconstitutional

2013-09-09T20:45:00Z 2013-09-09T22:04:13Z State judge rules Indiana's right-to-work law unconstitutionalElvia Malagon elvia.malagon@nwi.com, (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com
September 09, 2013 8:45 pm  • 

HAMMOND | A Lake County Superior Court judge has ruled Indiana's right-to-work law unconstitutional, but the decision doesn't mark the end of a legal battle over the measure.

Judge John Sedia ruled the law unconstitutional last week because the state constitution calls for just compensation for services, according to an order. The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in February 2013 on behalf of members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 AFL-CIO, who argued the law violated the constitution.

The Indiana attorney general's office said Monday in an email that the state plans to immediately appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. The attorney general's office called the judgement incorrect because the judge dismissed four other counts in the lawsuit. 

According to court records, the law makes it a criminal offense for unions to receive compensation for services the federal law requires them to provide to employees even if they aren't dues-paying members. 

The portion of the constitution Sedia cites as conflicting with the law states that no one's services can be demanded without just compensation.

Indiana was the 23rd state to pass a right-to-work law. The measure states no employer, labor group or person can require an individual to be part of a labor group, pay dues or fees as a condition for employment.

This isn't the first time unions have challenged the law since it was signed into legislation Feb. 1, 2012. The plaintiffs in the case previously filed a lawsuit in federal court, where they argued it violated the U.S. Constitution and Indiana Constitution.

A federal judge dismissed the case without prejudice to be litigated in state court.

Ed Maher, communications director for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, said the union represents about 4,000 workers in Northwest Indiana.

"All eyes will be on the Indiana Supreme Court," Maher said. "This is a huge win for us."

Bryan Corbin, spokesman for the Indiana attorney general's office, said the order states the law will remain effective until the case is appealed.

"The Indiana attorney general's office will aggressively defend the authority of the people's elected representatives in the Legislature as we successfully defended this same statute from the same plaintiff who challenged it in federal court," Corbin said in an email.

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