Union seeks restraining order on right-to-work law

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A federal judge will hear arguments next week on a union's request for a temporary restraining order to stop Indiana from enforcing its new right-to-work law.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 contends in a motion filed Monday afternoon that the law will cause irreparable harm, saying it already has employers actively questioning its ability to sustain itself in the face of a loss of a significant portion of its dues. The union says its members pay on average between $2,000 and $2,500 a year in dues and a loss of just 10 percent in membership would cost it $500,000 a year.

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Zoeller, said Tuesday the state will respond to the motion on Friday. He said the union was basically reasserting the same arguments it made in its lawsuit filed last week. Zoeller said then he would defend the law, arguing "the Legislature was within its authority to create a new policy concerning mandatory union dues."

The two sides will argue the case before U.S. District Judge Philip Simon in Hammond on Monday afternoon. The union, which has about 4,000 members in northwest Indiana, is asking him to find that the law will cause irreparable harm to the union. It also seeks a preliminary injunction hearing as soon as possible, arguing the law is unfair.

"The union's obligation to represent fairly all employees is undermined by any right to work law," the union argues in a memorandum in support of the temporary restraining order.

Indiana became the 23rd state to ban unions from collecting mandatory fees when Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the right-to-work legislation into law on Feb. 1. Indiana Democrats fought the law and boycotted the House session for several days to try to derail the bill. Union members turned out by the thousands to protest against the law, arguing that it will lead to lower wages and poorer quality jobs.

Supporters contend the law helps create a pro-business climate that attracts employers and increases jobs.

The union argues the law is unfair because it went into effect immediately for construction workers, but for some other unions it isn't enacted until March 14.

"The state has not articulated any reason why the law should have an immediate effect on the construction industry; in fact that state has not articulated any sound reason for any provision of the law," the memorandum says. "There is no 'purpose' or 'public policy' section in the law, leaving the public only to guess what the Legislature meant."

The lawsuit also argues the law is unfair because it negates contracts that already were legally negotiated.

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