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Indiana judge finds portion of right-to-work law unconstitutional

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A Lake County judge has determined Indiana's right-to-work law violates a provision in the state constitution barring the delivery of services "without just compensation."

Lake Superior Court Judge John Sedia found that the law wrongly requires unions to represent workers who do not pay dues. Indiana became the 23rd state in the nation to ban the collection of mandatory fees for representation from unions.

Since then, union lawyers have gone to the courts to try and overturn the law. Sedia issued an order last Thursday declaring the ban on collections and associated criminal penalties unconstitutional.

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Zoeller, pointed out the ruling allows the law to stay in effect while an appeal to the state Supreme Court is prepared.

"The State will take an immediate appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court of this declaratory judgment which we contend is incorrect, in light of the fact the same court granted the State's motion to dismiss on four other counts," Corbin wrote in a statement. "The Indiana Attorney General's Office will aggressively defend the authority of the people's elected representatives in the Legislature as we successfully defended this same statute from the same plaintiff who challenged it in federal court."

The ruling continues a battle between union members and Indiana Republicans who signed off on the measure last year. Indiana became the first state in the Rust Belt to approve right-to-work, after two chaotic sessions of the Indiana General Assembly, marked by a walkout of House Democrats in 2011 and periodic boycotts by the same group in 2012.

Members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, in northwest Indiana, filed the suit looking to overturn the law.

"These laws are nothing but thinly veiled tools to weaken unions, and this is a big win for workers who rely on unions to provide decent wages and benefits," said Local 150 president and business manager James M. Sweeney in a statement. "We pledged on the day that this law was passed that they hadn't seen the last of us, and we are delighted with this ruling."

But national supporters of the law, who have been pushing the measure with some success in other states, said the ruling amounted to only a partial victory: of the five counts the union sought, Sedia dismissed four of them.

"I would suggest (Sedia) was right to dismiss the four he dismissed, but should have dismissed the fifth one also," said Greg Mourad, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee.

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  • Not a Smart Business Plan
    Its easy to blame workers. What about the Management of the Mill. Its not smart in business to not have a back up plan. Workers are afforded sick days in most cases. Union or not. Whether drunk partying, or a real sickness. Why would you as a businessman/woman not have a rotation of workers incase this happens. This is not an exclusive union protection. If the company can prove bad intentions on the part of any union employee. They can take action. Most CBA's have a 3 strike policy. Just like most Non-union company policies. You should read a CBA sometime. There are protections for companies too. Unions understand that businesses need to make money. If they don't, the union's member won't have a place to work.
  • They Have Replacements
    The mill themselves have replacement workers and call in overtime sheet never stopped production. No company in the world doesn't have relief workers!
  • rtw NOT where i work!
    reasonable wages, weekends, paid vacations, retirement was all brought to you by UNIONS! UNIONS made this country! Child labor laws safety laws UNIONS! When is the last time any of you looked at tags for MADE IN AMERICA?! Damn Straight im Union and PROUD!.. not all of us call off cost the company money! At last count in after RTW went in to effect in INDIANA 4 people in Indian work in Union shops that are NON UNION members!!!! One tried in my local did not last 30 days!! I sure can not go to a divorce attorney with no payment and expect representation! Get real people! this country the rich is so much richer the middle class is just getting by and so many are living below poverty.. and unions have been on the decline until recently.. very relative I would say.. and not all union give to a political party .. mine does not.. if yours does you can have that portion of your money allocated to a charity.. (e.g united way).. educate yourselves!
  • Bad for consumers
    My nephew is a union steelworker in NW IN. He is in his early 20s, has no post HS education and will make at least $65-70,000 this year. He has great healthcare for next to nothing, and an old fashioned defined benefit plan. A couple of weeks ago, he decided to party hard and called off work. Turns out 3 other guys did too and since they work nights, this essentially idled the mill. He chuckled about how it likely cost his employer over $1 million. Then he said what really hit home for me: that "they can't do anything about it. We're union". I have a big problem with that.
    • Paul
      I completely agree. Thanks for being a voice of reason with facts to support your argument.
    • Here's an idea
      Why not let Lake County secede into Illinois? It would probably be a net benefit to both states.
    • Do we want to win the race...
      ...when it's a race to the bottom? Indiana workers already earn considerably less than the U.S. average. Indiana ranks 37th in per capita income. Steve appeared to imply that we should want to be more like Tennessee, South Carolina, and Texas ("right-to-work" states). They rank 39th, 40th, & 33rd respectively in per capita income. Is that the goal we want to set, remaining in the fourth quintile of per capita income?
      • Why just for unions?
        If service can be denied 'without just compensation', why do our elected representatives have to represent those that don't pay taxes?
      • judge is ok
        CA CHING, CA CHING, CA CHING! YEAH, IT MUST BE THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN! My Union Boss down at the Town Hall emailed me yesterday and. Told me that this article was hitting the Papers today, and He told Me. to make it Look like I was Working till this Blows Over in a week. I know the routine! In a week, I'll be back to my usual activity of. Collecting A Paycheck for Doing Nothing! Hey, Private Sector. Workers; You really gotta Pony Up more Taxes! I need at least a 10 %. raise! My Cabin Cruiser at the Dock behind my Vacation House in. Florida needs a New Engine. My wife has been after me for a new car. She wants a BMW X6 G-Power Typhoon S! I told her I can't afford that. car. So then she says she will accept a Mercedes-Benz CL-Class and. Nothing else! I also got Private School Tuition of $ 40,000.00 due. in September. I got Credit Card Expenses coming out my AXX! That new 3000 sq ft extension on my house raised my property taxes $ 15,000. The maid and the housekeeper want raises. The gardener also wants a. raise. You see Bunky; It ain't easy in the Public Sector! So come on Private Sector Worker; Pony Up and Pay More Taxes so I can afford to. live here! You See; Life Is Not Fair, and the DemoRats will take. care of Everything! HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN!
      • Goodbye Unions
        A Lake County judge??? Really?? Having been a Lake County resident 20 years ago, I can assure you that every decision up there is corrupt in some way, shape, or form. The unions are in every politician's back pocket! They are worthless and we don't need them. Isn't it about time Union workers get promotions and raises based upon their ability and work ethic, not because their contract says they should?
      • Pay Off
        Judge; Definitely Paid Off By Criminal Unions !!!
      • Union No
        Somebody needs to 'splain to union people that it's over. It really doesn't matter what we do, because other states have moved forward on this issue and that's where the jobs are going. We can either adapt or die. I am immediately suspicious when a Lake County judge does anything, because Lake County has a long history of union protectionism and bending the law to suit its purposes. It doesn't matter. While Indiana picks its nose, more jobs are heading to Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas. They're finding workers that are our equals there. They're finding people who do a good job. The old union model is dead and gone. The game is over and has been over for a long time. It's a shame that Indiana is so obstinate, so backward, so incredibly arrogant as to not accept reality. That we don't changes nothing. Union? No.

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