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UPDATE: 7th Circuit Upholds Right To Work

Phil Jern

3:00 p.m. update:

The federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday upheld Indiana’s Right to Work law as constitutional.  The ruling comes days before the law is challenged at the Indiana Supreme Court:

Indiana’s Right to Work law bans union contracts that require nonmembers pay fees for representation.  The International Operating Engineers union filed two lawsuits in the wake of the bill’s passage in 2012 – one in federal court, another in state court. 

The union hasn’t had any luck in federal court – the law was upheld by a district court last year and Tuesday, a three-judge panel at the 7th Circuit ruled two to one in favor of Right to Work.  The ruling says federal labor law – and previous court rulings – give states the right to regulate union contracts. 

Union spokesman Ed Maher says while the 7th Circuit ruling is a disappointment, the union’s lack of success in federal court is completely separate from its state court suit.

“At the state level, the momentum currently is that there are two decisions that have declared Right to Work unconstitutional,” Maher maintains.

The engineers union and the United Steelworkers union each filed lawsuits against Right to Work, saying it violates a provision of the Indiana Constitution.  Both union suits have been successful at the county court level; the engineers union’s case will be heard by the state Supreme Court Thursday. 

Maher says his union hasn’t decided whether to appeal in its federal case.

11:00 a.m. update:

The battle over Indiana’s Right to Work law heads to the state’s highest court this week. 

The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Thursday in one of two lawsuits challenging the controversial law.

The General Assembly passed Right to Work in 2012, barring union contracts that require non-union employees to pay fees for representation. 

Two unions – the International Operating Engineers and United Steelworkers – filed lawsuits in Lake County challenging the statute. 

Last year, a judge sided with the engineers’ union, ruling that the law violated the state constitution because it required the union to provide services without just compensation. 

The state appealed, and the Indiana Supreme Court will now hear the case. 

A different Lake County judge ruled in July for the steelworkers, finding Right to Work unconstitutional. 

The Supreme Court will not combine the two cases into one hearing. 

And despite victories in lower courts for the unions, state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and legal experts have all expressed doubt that the Supreme Court will strike the law down.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.