The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 22, 2013

Indiana judge tosses RTW challenges

By The Building Tradesman

Indiana passed a right-to-work law early last year, and legal efforts by labor unions to rid the Hoosier state of their anti-union law may be like the canary-in-the-coal mine for Michigan’s anti-RTW efforts.

Case in point: On Jan. 17, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by union members challenging the legality of the Indiana’s right-to-work law. Federal Judge Philip Simon rules that none of the unions’ arguments against RTW could succeed in a federal court. The case could be taken to a federal appeals court, and a challenge could still be made in state courts.

Operating Engineers Local 150 brought the case to the federal court, and claimed the law, which allows free-riders not to pay union dues but enjoy union benefits, violates the U.S. Constitution.

The case was “soundly tossed out of federal court” according to the legal firm of Barnes and Thornburg, “The union challenged the statute under the Contracts Clause, the Ex Post Facto Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” the firm said. “They further challenged the Act as being pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act and finally raised issues with it under the Indiana Constitution. Simon dismissed all of the federal constitutional challenges as failing to state a claim.”

Judge Simon wrote in his ruling: “For better or worse, the political branches of government make policy judgments. The electorate can ultimately decide whether those judgments are sound, wise and constitute good governance, and then can express their opinions at the polls and by other means.

“But those are questions beyond the reach of the federal court, which instead is limited to analysis of particular legal arguments that the challenged legislation runs afoul of preemptive federal labor law or the U.S. Constitution wrote. None of the legal challenges launched by the Union here to attack Indiana’s new Right to Work law can succeed.”