A district court judge in Indiana says any union challenges to the law should be decided in state, not federal, courts.
HAMMOND, Ind. — A federal judge on Thursday threw out a union’s lawsuit seeking to overturn Indiana’s “right to work” law, saying such a challenge should remain at the state level.
Judge Philip Simon of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana issued the ruling, approving the state’s motion to dismiss the suit filed last year against former Gov. Mitch Daniels, Attorney General Greg Zoeller and former Commissioner of Labor Lori Torres.
The plaintiffs, Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, claimed the law, which bars companies and unions from negotiating contracts that require all employees to pay for representation, violated the constitution.
The law’s passage by the General Assembly in February 2012 was a major milestone in what has become a national tug of war over union rights.
Indiana became the first state in the industrial Midwest to put such a measure on the books. By December, Michigan had followed suit.
In Indiana, the law was enacted only after a heated battle that made lawsuits almost inevitable. Democratic lawmakers staged a walkout to try and stop it. Union members flooded the capital grounds for large protests and even staged a parade through the streets of Indianapolis in the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
In the end the political fight failed, and now opponents have a judicial setback, too.
The union will consider an appeal, spokesman Ed Maher told the Associated Press.
Outside of that, the remaining glimmer of hope for opponents rests in state court, where United Steel brought suit in Lake County alleging the law violates Indiana’s constitution.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, welcomed Thursday’s federal decision as “one very positive step.” “It’s good for Hoosier workers, it’s good for those who are seeking to be workers and it is good for the state’s economy,” Bosma said.
Bosma said this federal case was “decisively dismissed,” creating what he said would be a very high burden to overturn on appeal.
Indeed, Judge Simon wrote that: “For better or worse, the political branches of government make policy judgments. The electorate can ultimately decide whether those judgments are sound, wise and constitute good governance, and then can express their opinions at the polls and by other means.
“But those are questions beyond the reach of the federal court, which instead is limited to analysis of particular legal arguments that the challenged legislation runs afoul of preemptive federal labor law or the U.S. Constitution wrote. None of the legal challenges launched by the Union here to attack Indiana’s new Right to Work law can succeed.”