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Zoeller asks Supreme Court to restore right-to-work law
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Zoeller asks Supreme Court to restore right-to-work law

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INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Supreme Court has begun receiving written arguments over whether Lake Superior Judge John Sedia correctly ruled the state's 2012 right-to-work law 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.

On Friday, Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller submitted a 61-page filing to the state's high court, claiming 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."

Zoeller likened the differing federal-state union representation requirements to telecommunications law, where the federal government mandates phone companies meet certain performance standards but allows states to further regulate those companies' rates and business practices.

"Such regulations may, at times, force diminished revenues, less advantageous market position or actions that the affected party simply does not want to perform," he said. "Yet, it surely would not be reasonable to characterize such state laws as state 'demands' for 'particular services' under (the Indiana Constitution)."

The attorney general added that if unions don't want the federally imposed costs of representing nonmembers they could organize as members-only entities.

However, Zoeller fails to note those groups rarely are formed because employers are not required to recognize and bargain with a members-only union as they are with exclusive-agency unions that must, under federal law, represent and serve members and nonmembers alike.

In states without right-to-work laws, nonmembers typically must pay a "fair share" fee for union services they receive.

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.

Attorneys representing the plaintiff, the Merrillville-based International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, must submit their response to Zoeller's filing by Feb. 12.

The five justices of the Supreme Court likely will hear oral arguments after both sides have submitted their written analysis of the case and law.

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