Labor & Employment

7th Circuit upholds Indiana right-to-work law barring mandatory union dues


A federal appeals court has upheld an Indiana law that bars mandatory union membership and dues.

The 2-1 decision by the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Indiana right-to-work law didn’t violate the U.S. Constitution and was not pre-empted by federal labor law, report Bloomberg News, Reuters and the Associated Press. How Appealing notes the news coverage and links to the decision.

A challenge under the Indiana Constitution is pending before the Indiana Supreme Court.

The Indiana law bars anyone from conditioning employment on joining a union, paying union dues or paying an equivalent amount to charity.

Judges Daniel Manion and John Tinder were in the majority. A dissent by Chief Judge Diane Wood argued the law was pre-empted by federal law. If not, Wood said, the law violates the takings clause because federal law imposed a duty of fair representation on the union but the Indiana law did not allow mandatory fees to cover that duty.

The majority said the takings issue was forfeited because the union challenging the law did not raise it. In any event, the majority said, the union is justly compensated by the federal law’s grant of exclusive bargaining rights.

The majority also said the law did not apply retroactively so it did not violate the ex post facto or contracts clauses. Nor did the law violate equal protection or First Amendment guarantees, the court said.

The union had argued the law violated equal protection guarantees because it allowed free riders to siphon union resources away from union political activities, diminishing free-speech rights.

Twenty-four states have right-to-work laws, and many of them are similar to Indiana’s law.

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