Bloomberg News

Indiana Right-to-Work Law Ruled Unconstitutional by State Judge

September 09, 2013

Indiana’s right-to-work law making it a crime to charge union dues as a condition of employment was ruled unconstitutional by a state court judge.

Enacted by now-former Governor Mitch Daniels last year, the measure made it a misdemeanor to require a worker to pay fees, assessments or other charges to a union or a third party to get or keep a job.

Opponents called the legislation a wage-lowering union buster. State court Judge John M. Sedia in Hammond concluded it was unlawful because it forced unions to provide benefits to non-members without just compensation.

“There is no court which is more loathe to declare any state statute unconstitutional than this one,” Sedia said in a Sept. 5 ruling, saying he had no choice other than to void the law.

The judge delayed enforcement of his ruling during an appeal.

State Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office said today it will seek to reverse the ruling.

“The state will take an immediate appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court of this declaratory judgment which we contend is incorrect,” Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for Zoeller, said in an e-mailed statement, noting the court rejected some arguments by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and six individual plaintiffs including its president, James M. Sweeney.

‘Huge Victory’

“This is a huge victory for the middle class,” Sweeney said in a statement posted on the union’s website. “These laws are nothing but thinly-veiled tools to weaken unions, and this is a big win for workers who rely on unions to provide decent wages and benefits.” The union is based in Countryside, Illinois.

Daniels, a Republican, signed the law on Feb. 1, 2012, after it passed the state senate on a 28-22 vote, making his state the 23rd to enact such legislation.

“This law won’t be a magic answer but we’ll be far better off with it,” Daniels said then. “No one’s wages will go down, no one’s benefits will be reduced, and the right to organize and bargain collectively is untouched and intact.”

The case is Sweeney v. Zoeller, 45D01-1305-PL-52, Lake County, Indiana, Superior Court (Hammond).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in the Chicago federal courthouse at

aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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