While amidst vehement opposition from Democrats, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed Indiana’s right-to-work legislation into law, labor unions are infuriated as Indiana became the 23rd state banning unions from collecting mandatory fees to represent workers.
Though Indiana Democrats boycotted the House session for many days and unions dubbed the legislation as the “right-to-work-for-less bill,” the law was passed.
However on Wednesday, The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 filed a lawsuit challenging the new law at the U.S. District Court in Hammond.
Jane Jankowski, the spokesperson for the governor’s office declined to comment on the development, but the Attorney General Greg Zoeller said that his office would carry out its duty to defend the state.
The Attorney General said in a statement: “Legal challenges are part of the process to test whether laws are constitutional. Though we respect the right of private plaintiffs to disagree with this new law, the State’s position is that the Legislature was within its authority to create a new policy concerning mandatory union dues. My office’s duty is to defend the laws the Legislature passes and we will do so diligently here.”
Mark Paulos, an attorney representing the union said that the union would seek temporary injunction to restrain the law from coming into effect while the courts decide the matter. The plaintiffs expected an early hearing as the matter was of public interest, however, it was not possible to comment on the length of time that might take to decide the issue.
Significantly, only last year, a federal judge in Indianapolis had struck down a law that sought to restrict Medicaid funds from abortion providers. That ruling is still under appeal.
Among other questions and issues raised in the lawsuit including multiple violations of state and federal constitutions by the right-to-work law, the union claimed that the law violated the equal protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution by treating public workers and building and construction workers differently from other workers in the state. Union representatives stated that the law was designed so that its provisions regarding construction trades took immediate effect, thus handicapping existing contracts. The law also does not allow public employees to opt out of union membership to the same degree as it allows private sector employees.