For the second time in two months, a legal challenge to Indiana’s right to work law has been resolved in favor of the State, which means the statute prohibiting involuntary union dues can continue to be enforced.
This week the Indiana Supreme Court issued a procedural order dismissing a lawsuit originally brought by United Steel that challenged the right to work statute the Legislature passed in 2012. The Lake County Circuit Court had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and invalidated the statute, but the Attorney General’s Office – representing the State and defending the statute – appealed directly to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Three Indiana workers, Douglas Richards, David Brubaker and Michael Miller, filed an amicus curiae brief defending the law with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. The brief was filed together with the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center.
Tuesday’s resolution of the United Steel case in favor of the State was expected, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling of Nov. 6 in an earlier legal challenge to right to work law, the Sweeney case. In Sweeney, the Supreme Court unanimously found the statute is constitutional and the State can enforce it.
“The Indiana Supreme Court has conclusively answered that the statute prohibiting involuntary union dues is constitutional. It is my hope that people of good will with sincerely held different opinions about this statute will respect the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.
In a one-page order Tuesday, the Indiana Supreme Court ended the appeal by remanding the United Steel case back to the Lake County Circuit Court – whose original ruling had been stayed – with orders for the lower court to dismiss the plaintiffs’ original complaint. The parties in the United Steel case had filed a joint motion asking the Court to resolve the case consistent with its earlier ruling in the Sweeney case that found the right to work law is constitutional. The same Sweeney plaintiffs previously had challenged the right to work law in federal court, but both the US District Court and US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the state law did not violate either federal law or the federal Constitution.
Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation, issued the following statement in the wake of the court’s ruling:
“Today, the Indiana Supreme Court once again upheld the statutory and civil rights protections enshrined in Indiana’s Right to Work law. We are pleased that the court struck down this blatantly frivolous union legal challenge, as the constitutionality of state Right to Work laws is a long-settled question. Union officials have now failed twice before the state supreme court – and in federal court – to overturn the will of the people and protect their government-granted privileges to force workers into paying union tribute as a condition of their employment. We applaud the workers who diligently and courageously stood up to defend their rights under the state’s Right to Work law to refrain from union membership and dues payments.”
The practical impact of today’s ruling is that the Indiana Department of Labor – which has been able to enforce the right to work law during the stay – can continue to enforce it without interruption.
NOTE: The Indiana Supreme Court’s order today in the United Steel case is attached.