Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Number Twenty-Three Stays Right to Work

scotusIn February 2012, advocates for employee rights welcomed Indiana as the 23rd state to pass a right-to-work law under which unions cannot force non-members to fund the union. Big Labor (specifically the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150) sued on the preposterous grounds that the law violated their free speech rights, among other things. While a federal appeals court rejected the challenge, a left-wing state judge went along with the union’s claim that the law violated a provision of the state constitution regarding compensation for work.

That left the law in force but also in limbo until this week. The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the right-to-work law is constitutional. Writing for the Court, Justice Brent Dickson rejected the union’s claim that it isn’t compensated for its work:

The Union’s federal obligation to represent all employees in a bargaining unit is optional; it occurs only when the union elects to be the exclusive bargaining agent, for which it is justly compensated by the right to bargain exclusively with the employer.

This is an important distinction: Unions claim that they should be allowed to force non-members to pay for representation because they reap the alleged “benefits” of union representation. But as the Indiana Supreme Court correctly found, unions are compensated for this arrangement by the government-compelled bargaining requirements. Unions want this—that’s why they don’t become “members-only.”

Along with victories by pro-reform state governors and new reform-minded Senators like Senators-elect Cory Gardner, James Lankford, and Tom Cotton — all of whom co-sponsored the pro-reform federal measure the Employee Rights Act as U.S. Representatives — this ruling shows that the future belongs to employee freedom, not union dinosaurs.

Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActRight-to-Work