[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Indiana Supreme Court ruled yesterday that two provisions of Indiana’s Right to Work Law – Indiana Code sections 22-6-6-8 and 22-6-6-10 – do not violate the Indiana Constitution, reversing Lake County Superior Judge John M. Sedia’s ruling from July.
Indiana’s Right to Work (“RTW”) Law has been fiercely contested by organized labor since its inception, and has resulted in extensive litigation and press. Perhaps no feature has attracted more attention than RTW’s prohibition against involuntary union dues. Because federal labor law requires that unions represent the interests of all employees in the bargaining unit – regardless of whether the employees are union members – critics argue RTW violates Article 21 of the Indiana Constitution. Article 21 generally forbids the State of Indiana to demand particular services without just compensation. Labor advocates claim requiring unions to represent the interests of non-members effectively requires unions to provide services for which payment cannot be recovered.
In asserting these and other challenges, the plaintiffs, Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, AFL-CIO and several of its members and officers, filed a complaint against Indiana’s Attorney General and the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor seeking a judgment declaring several provisions of Indiana’s RTW Law unconstitutional. Although the trial court dismissed several of the plaintiffs’ claims, it entered final judgment sua sponte, or on its own accord, on the remaining claim and declared the challenged statutory provisions unconstitutional. The State appealed.
The Indiana Supreme Court found the obligation to represent all employees in a bargaining unit is optional under federal labor law because it occurs only after the union elects to become the exclusive bargaining agent of employees. That is, the obligation to represent all employees – including non-members – is a “corresponding duty” imposed in exchange for the many powers granted to a union when it becomes an exclusive bargaining representative. As such, the Court held that any compulsion to provide services to non-members is not the product of a demand made by the State and reversed the trial court’s ruling.
Previous challenges to Indiana’s RTW Law have been addressed in federal and state courts, and legal issues remain pending in the Indiana court system. KDDK will continue to monitor and provide updates as developments occur.
For additional insights as to how these developments may impact your workforce, please contact any member of the KDDK Labor and Employment Law Practice Team.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]