By Emily C. Lamb
In a big victory for business groups, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a decision on November 6, 2014, in Zoeller v. Sweeney, 2 N.E.3d ___ (Ind. 2014) unanimously holding that Indiana’s Right to Work Law is constitutional. The Right to Work Law, which became effective in February 2012, bars employers from forcing workers to join unions or pay union dues as a condition of employment. Earlier this year, Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers and several of its members filed suit against the Indiana Attorney General seeking to have the law overturned as unconstitutional. Specifically, the Union argued that the law violates Article 1, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution, which prohibits the state from demanding any person’s services without just compensation because it requires unions to provide representation services to employees regardless of whether an employee paid dues. The trial court agreed and declared that the statutory provision of the Right to Work Law prohibiting employers from requiring union membership or the payment of union dues violates the Indiana Constitution.On immediate appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court, the Indiana Attorney General argued that the Right to Work Law does not violate Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution because it does not contemplate any state demand for services. Rather, it merely prohibits involuntary union membership. The Indiana Supreme Court agreed, reasoning that because it is federal law, not state law, that provides a duty of fair representation in the case of exclusive-agency unions, the compulsion for a union to provide services to non-members does not constitute a demand by the State of Indiana. Absent any state demand, the Court held that the Right to Work Law is constitutional. By this ruling, the Court affirmed that Indiana citizens cannot be compelled to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment, but remain free to join a union if they choose.