Federal judge dismisses lawsuit challenging Indiana right-to-work law

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Indiana [official website] on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit brought by a union challenging Indiana's right-to-work law [text, PDF] on the grounds that the challenge could not succeed in federal court. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 [official website] filed the suit [JURIST report] last February arguing that the right-to-work law violates unions' free speech rights under the US and Indiana constitutions by hampering collection of money to pay for unions' political speech. Chief District Judge Philip Simon rejected the union's challenge [AP report], saying that the state's interest in creating a business-friendly environment is a legitimate reason for passing the law. The union is considering appealing the district court's decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website].

Many states have had contentious disputes over collective bargaining rights recently. In December Michigan approved legislation [JURIST report] known as "Freedom to Work" that makes payment of union dues voluntary and limits workers' ability to strike. In September the Michigan Supreme Court ordered [JURIST report] a union-backed measure to amend the state constitution to include a right to labor unionization and collective bargaining to appear on the November ballot. The measure was defeated 57-43 percent [AP report]. Wisconsin faced a challenge against its legislation which limited the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. In July the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] not to reopen a case challenging the state's Budget Repair Bill [text, PDF] because of a justice's refusal to recuse himself. Four votes were needed, but only three justices were in support of reopening the case. The court upheld [JURIST report] the bill in June 2011 thereby overruling the Dane County Circuit Court [official website] finding [JURIST report] a month earlier that legislators had violated the "open meetings" rule. The court ruled that the lower court had "invaded the legislature's constitutional powers." In March a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website] ruled unconstitutional [JURIST report] certain provisions of the Budget Repair Bill reasoning that unions which supported Governor Scott Walker [official website] during his election were apparently given preferential treatment. In November 2011 Ohio voters rejected [JURIST report] a bill which would have impacted Ohio's 400,000 public workers by limiting their ability to strike and collectively bargain for health insurance and pensions.

 

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