Second judge declares right-to-work law unconstitutional

  • Comments
  • Print

A Lake County judge has struck down Indiana’s 2012 right-to-work law that made it illegal for companies to compel non-union members to pay fees for union services.

But Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Wednesday that he will ask for a stay to prevent the decision from taking effect immediately. A similar case is already pending before the Indiana Supreme Court.

“Strong opinions exist on both sides about involuntary union dues, but the attorney general’s office has a duty to defend the laws the legislature passes from legal challenges plaintiffs file,” Zoeller said in a statement. “If a trial court finds a law unconstitutional, then the appropriate action is to stay its ruling pending the appeal.”

In his decision, Paras specifically said there was “no stay” of the order. He said the law prevents unions from receiving “just compensation” because federal law requires them to provide services to non-union members. The right-to-work law says those members don’t have to pay anything for those services.

The law “eviscerates the basic right that a person be compensated for the good and valuable services that a person provides in commercial endeavors,” the judge wrote.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, a Democrat who fought the right-to-work law, tweeted Wednesday that the decision was “a win for the @SteelWorkers, working people everywhere, middle class wages.”

Lake Circuit Special Judge George Paras issued his ruling on July 17 and said it would take effect immediately upon its entry into the chronological case summary, which makes it official.

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the attorney general, said the office received the decision by mail on Wednesday but has not determined whether it’s been entered into the chronological case summary.

State attorneys were working Wednesday evening on the request for a stay and Corbin said it would be filed as soon as possible. He said the state would also file a notice that it would appeal the decision.

A spokesman for the Indiana AFL-CIO deferred questions to the United Steel Workers, which declined to comment Wednesday night on the decision.

The Indiana Supreme Court has set oral arguments for a separate right-to-work case for Sept. 4.

In that case, Lake Superior Judge John Sedia also found the controversial right-to-work law unconstitutional. But Sedia stayed his own ruling during the state’s appeal. which went directly to Indiana’s highest court.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed the right-to-work law in 2012 over the objections of Democrats and labor leaders – as well as thousands of union members who protested at the Statehouse – who said the law would lead to lower wages and unsafe workplaces. Supporters said it would make Indiana a more attractive place to do business.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.