Recent Impact of Indiana’s Right-to-Work Law

By: Christopher S. Drewry

Earlier this year, Indiana became the 23rd state to enact a right-to-work (RTW) law (Ind. Code § 22-6-6 et seq.) in which workers cannot be compelled to pay union dues.  The statute applies to union contracts which were/are entered into, modified, renewed, or extended after March 14, 2012 and makes it a Class A misdemeanor to require an individual as a condition of employment to: (1) become or remain a member of a labor organization, (2) pay dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind or amount to a labor organization, or (3) pay to a charity or third party an amount that is equivalent to or a pro rata part of dues, fees, assessments, or other charges required of members of a labor organization.

In a recent article in the Indiana Lawyer, some of the recent activity on Indiana’s RTW law was addressed, namely as it relates to the Indiana Department of Labor’s rule promulgation and ongoing litigation in state and federal court here in Indiana.

While passage of the RTW law took place in February of this year, the rules as to how it will be enforced are still being ironed out.  In June, the IDOL published notice of, and on a public hearing, which was held on July 10th, on the proposed rule was held in order to establish procedures for the filing and adjudication of complaints of violations of the statute.  As the article points out, the current plans suggest that the IDOL will finish promulgating its rules sometime this month, after which they will be reviewed by the attorney general and governor.  From there, as IDOL spokesman Bob Dittmer indicated, the rules will then be published and finalized, potentially by October 1st.

In addition to the rules regarding enforcement, there are other current issues that could impact the RTW law in Indiana.  Despite the statute stating that no one may be compelled to be a member of a union or pay dues for political activity or for general membership representation, litigation has nonetheless been initiated.  The article identifies one such case, United Steelworkers, et al. v. Mitch Daniels, et al., 45D01-1203-PL-19, in which the United Steelworkers Region 7 filed suit in Lake Superior Court alleging the RTW law violates a section of the state constitution that says “No person’s particular services shall be demanded, without just compensation.”  Essentially, the union has argued that they still are legally required to provide services to workers they represent, whether or not those workers are dues-paying members.  The State filed a motion for summary judgment, though no ruling has been issued at this time.  Additionally, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation also intervened by filing an amicus brief on behalf of two steelworkers who said forced payment of dues violates their First Amendment right of freedom of speech.

In another similar case – James L. Sweeney, et al. v. Mitch Daniels, et al., 2:12-CV-81, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana – the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 challenged the RTW statute on grounds that it too, among other things, violates Article I Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution because it requires unions to render “particular services” without “just compensation”.  As in the United Steelworkers case, the State has filed summary judgment to dispense of the claims and is awaiting ruling on that motion.

Needless to say, between the IDOL’s much anticipated promulgation of rules and the ongoing litigation in the federal and state courts, the coming months should provide a great deal of insight on the application of RTW in Indiana and its impact on organized labor.