Indiana right-to-work law is unconstitutional, court says

Decision is a victory for the state’s unions … for now

Passed amid a cloud of controversy in February, the right-to-work law in Indiana has been ruled unconstitutional, according to a state court judge. “The reasoning is strained and rests on the rather peculiar notion that ‘just compensation’ for a union means forcing all employees to pay dues, whether they support the union’s aims or not,” Fisher & Phillips said in a release yesterday about the ruling.

On Feb. 1, Indiana became the 23rd state to enact a right-to-work law, which prohibits employers and labor organizations from requiring employees, as a condition of initial or continued employment, to become or remain a member of a labor organization; pay dues, fees, assessments or other charges to a labor organization; or pay a charity or third party a dues equivalent.

Later that month, the International Union of Operating Engineers filed suit against the state, saying the law violated its constitution. Citing Indiana’s Constitution, which says ‘[n]o person’s particular services shall be demanded, without just compensation’, Judge John M. Sedia ruled the law unconstitutional.

“The court noted that to be considered ‘particular,’ services must be 1) historically compensated, and 2) something required of a party as an individual, as opposed to something required generally of all citizens,” Fisher & Phillips said in its release. “The court found services provided by a union, including negotiations and enforcing collective bargaining agreements, fit within that definition. “

While unions may be celebrating the victory now, it’s possible it will be short lived. A spokesperson for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office said the state plans to appeal the ruling. And until a higher court decides the right-to-work law’s fate, it will remain in effect.

Read more InsideCounsel stories about right-to-work laws:

Michigan governor asks court to rule on right-to-work

Right-to-work law passes in Michigan amid protests

Right-to-work bill advances in Indiana

Ohio group seeks right-to-work amendment

Union sues to block enforcement of Indiana right-to-work law

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Cathleen Flahardy

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