UPDATE: Appeals court upholds state's right-to-work law

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A federal appeals court upheld Indiana's right-to-work law banning mandatory union fees on Tuesday in a split decision that was delivered a few days before the state Supreme Court hears separate challenges over whether the 2012 measure violates the state constitution.

Two 7th Circuit Court of Appeal judges, Daniel Manion and John Tinder, said the state law doesn't wrongfully take property from unions and is constitutional. They also said federal law does not pre-empt Indiana's right-to-work law, as union lawyers have argued.

Chief Judge Diane Wood dissented, writing that federal labor law "does not support such sweeping force for Indiana's right-to-work law," and arguing that her fellow judges on the three-judge panel did not completely understand the universe of national labor law.

The appeals court ruling isn't likely to color arguments scheduled for Thursday before the Indiana Supreme Court, where a pair of cases from Lake County have challenged the law on state constitutional grounds. Judges in those two cases have said the law violates a provision of the Indiana constitution barring anyone from being forced to provide a service for free — in this case, union representation.

Indiana became the first Rust Belt state to approve a right-to-work law in 2012, followed quickly by Michigan. Indiana's legislative fight drew thousands of union protesters to the Statehouse in 2011 and 2012, and it was one of Indiana's most divisive and drawn-out debates.

The law bars unions from mandating that non-members pay fees to the union for representation. Supporters of the law, pushed mostly by business groups, argue that mandatory fees amount to forced unionizing. But Democrats and labor unions said the law creates a "freeloader" dynamic, because workers can gain the benefits of the union without having to pay for membership.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who is defending the state in both federal and state challenges to the law, hailed the ruling.

"Now that the federal courts have concluded the statute the people's elected representatives in the Legislature passed does not violate federal law, we will argue that the statute also complies with the Indiana Constitution and ought to be upheld," Zoeller said in a statement.

Union leaders are still deciding whether they will appeal the federal ruling, according to Ed Maher, spokesman for the International Union of Operating Engineers, which brought the federal suit and filed one of the state-level challenges.

But he noted "it in no way affects our optimism heading into Thursday's oral arguments on the state lawsuit."

Joel Schumm, a constitutional scholar at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law, noted the justices on the state's high court may be aware of the federal ruling, but it probably won't have much impact.

"The Indiana Constitution has a unique provision not found in the U.S. Constitution," he said.


  • when is majority rule tyrannical?
    So, Paul Lambie, if majority rule is a good thing in terms of unionization, when is majority rule a bad thing? How about if the majority votes in favor of traditional marriage? Or against interracial marriage? Or putting such demands upon abortion doctors that 99% of abortion clinics are put out of business? Didn't the Volkswagen Chattanooga referendum from earlier this year show that unions don't really take kindly to the workers voting "no"? What if the problem of a union not serving its members well is a product of the inherent structure of the union itself, which in turn enriches its leadership who fight tooth and nail to maintain this self-serving structure, regardless of who specifically assumes this leadership position? Why do you hate corporations so much? They are comprised of people too, and they are the ones who have to make difficult decisions about the operations of business, while the workers get to keep turning the gaskets. Anti-union sentiment is just good old fashioned American meritocracy, raising its ugly head again. How awful it must be for those who want everyone to have equally mediocre aspirations.
  • Good!
    Good for the court upholding the law. Everyone should have the "right to work" without being forced to join an organization which they don't believe in. If I owned a business and I could swing it, I would pay the non-union workers better than the mindless union dues payers.
  • Affont to workers
    Sometimes majority rule is a good thing, such as in the decision of whether or not to unionize. From the comments I read on this topic, I get the impression that people think that a union forces itself into a workplace against the will of the workers. A union is only established if supported by a majority of the workplace's workers. And if a majority of the workers disapprove of the union, they can also vote to have it removed. But you can't expect to run a union where services are provided to all, but dues are voluntary just the same as you couldn't run a government that way. What would happen if payment of taxes were optional? Most people wouldn't pay, it's human nature, and government would collapse. If a union isn't serving its workers well, the membership can vote in new leadership. Right-to-work is simply a strategy to decimate unions and decrease the wage structure for workers to increase profits for corporations. Unfortunately, the strategy has been successful at gaining allies among workers by turning them against one another and by appealing to patriotic terms such as "freedom", "liberty" and "rights". America will not be a better place for the majority of citizens if and when the unions have been eradicated by the rich.
    • Affront to Freedom
      Is there any clearer affront to personal freedom than this union effort. Individuals should be able to choose to join or not to join a union based on their personal beliefs and values and not as a prerequisite to work. It would be interesting to see a poll on this item to add a public perspective.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. why oh why does this state continue to elect these people....do you wonder how much was graft out of the 3.8 billion?

    2. i too think this is a great idea. I think the vision and need is there as well. But also agree with Wendy that there may be better location in our city to fulfill this vision and help grow the sports of hockey and figure skating in Indy. Also to help further develop other parts of the city that seem often forgotten. Any of the other 6 townships out side of the three northernmost could benefit greatly from a facility and a vision like this. For a vision that sounds philanthropic, the location is appears more about the money. Would really like to see it elsewhere, but still wish the development the best of luck, as we can always use more ice in the city. As for the Ice growth when they return, if schedules can be coordinated with the Fuel, what could be better than to have high level hockey available to go see every weekend of the season? Good luck with the development and the return of the Ice.

    3. How many parking spaces do they have at Ironworks? Will residents have reserved spaces or will they have to troll for a space among the people that are there at Ruth Chris & Sangiovese?

    4. You do not get speeding ticket first time you speed and this is not first time Mr.Page has speed. One act should not define a man and this one act won't. He got off with a slap on the wrist. I agree with judge no person was injured by his actions. The state was robbed of money by paying too much rent for a building and that money could have been used for social services. The Page family maybe "generous" with their money but for most part all of it is dirty money that he obtained for sources that are not on the upright. Page is the kind of lawyer that gives lawyers a bad name. He paid off this judge like he has many other tine and walked away. Does he still have his license. I believe so. Hire him to get you confiscated drug money back. He will. It will cost you.

    5. I remain amazed at the level of expertise of the average Internet Television Executive. Obviously they have all the answers and know the business inside and out.