Union suing to block Indiana right-to-work law

2012-02-22T18:15:00Z 2012-02-23T17:55:43Z Union suing to block Indiana right-to-work lawBy Times Staff and Wire Reports nwitimes.com
February 22, 2012 6:15 pm  • 

Union members are asking a federal judge to block Indiana's new right-to-work law.

International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 filed a suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Hammond claiming the right-to-work law violates both the U.S Constitution and Indiana Constitution. The suit names Gov. Mitch Daniels, Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Labor Commissioner Lori Torres.

The union, which has a Merrillville office, said in a news release the law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by treating similar classes of workers differently and violates the Indiana Constitution by requiring the union to provide a service without compensation. For example, the union said it would be allowed to charge construction workers fees but not those in other industries. The union also argues the right-to-work law conflicts with federal law.

Although provisions of the law become effective March 14, the union is seeking a temporary restraining order against its enforcement. The Indiana Department of Labor has yet to issue rules pertaining to right-to-work.

In a statement issued Wednesday, James Sweeney, president and business manager of the Countryside, Ill.-based union local, blasted the legislation.

"Indiana legislators picked a fight with the middle class when they introduced this law, and when workers are attacked, we fight back," Sweeney said. "Aside from being intrusive government and bad public policy, this so-called 'right to work' legislation repeatedly violates two constitutions and nearly a century of federal labor law. It discriminates among groups of workers and mandates private businesses to provide service without compensation."

The Indiana attorney general's office said in a statement it has not been served with the lawsuit, but is taking the state's position that the General Assembly was within its authority to create a new policy concerning mandatory union dues.

"My office's duty is to defend the laws the legislature passes, and we will do so diligently here," Zoeller said.

Daniels signed the right-to-work legislation into law Feb. 1 over the objections of many Democrats in the General Assembly and union members. A Daniels spokeswoman declined comment on the lawsuit.

— Associated Press Writer Charles Wilson in Indianapolis and Times Staff Writer Bowdeya Tweh contributed to this report.

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