Right-To-Work Law: Lake County Superior Court Judge Finds Law Unconstitutional

By:  Mike Cavosie

In a decision that will certainly be appealed, on September 5, 2013, Lake County Superior Court judge John M. Sedia held that Indiana’s Right-to-Work Law violates the Indiana Constitution.  The lawsuit challenging the law was brought by Local 150 of the Operators union.

Local 150  alleged four distinct constitutional violations:

1. violation of Article I, Section 1, which declares that all people are created equal, by compelling Local 150  to bear the entire cost of representing non-members;

2. violation of Article I, Section 9:, which guarantees the right of free speech, by requiring Local 150 to divert resources to represent non-members that it could otherwise use for protected speech.;

3. violation of Article I, Section 24, which generally prohibits laws with certain types of retroactive effect, by applying to existing collective bargaining agreements; and

4. violation of Article I, Section 21, which declares that no person’s services shall be demanded without just compensation, by requiring Local 150 to serve non-members.  

Judge Sedia dismissed the first three alleged violations but held that the law violated Article I, Section 21.  He first noted that, under Federal labor law, Local 150 is required to represent non-members:  Thus:

In the absence of the federal law, a union could, without incurring any criminal liability under [the Right-to-Work Law], refuse to provide services for those employees who chose not to join the union; in the absence of the [Right-to-Work Law], the union could insure that it received compensation in the form of dues for the services the federal law required it to perform from those employees who chose not to join the union though a collective bargaining agreement with the employer that made the payment of dues to the union a condition of employment.

Judge Sedia noted his strong antipathy to declaring any state statute unconstitutional, but he concluded:

However, the effect of [the Right-to-Work Law] under the current, long-standing federal labor law, is to demand particular services without just compensation.  The Court therefore has no choice but to find that [provisions of the Right-to-Work Law] violate Article I, Section 21  of the Indiana Constitution.