The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, is seeking to
nullify the State of Indiana’s recently passed “right to work” statute (RTW),
in a suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District
of Indiana, on the ground that RTW violates both state and federal law.
The suit names as defendants Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana Attorney General
Gregory Zoeller, and Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Lori Torres;
as plaintiffs, two elected officers of Local 150, four rank-and-file
members, and the local itself.
Pending a ruling on the suit, Local 150 is seeking a temporary restraining
order against RTW, whose “glaring violations and contradictions of existing
law,” the local said in a statement released after deadline on Thursday,
“are likely the result of the often cited rush to pass the legislation as
quickly as possible.”
Among the suit’s allegations:
•RTW violates the “contracts clause” of Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution
in that it substantially impairs contractual relationships by forbidding
longstanding union security clauses and payment of fees in exchange for
•RTW violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s “equal
protection” clause by treating similar classes of workers differently.
•By allowing workers to opt out of paying dues, dues-paying members would
bear the entire cost of providing representation, and a smaller amount of
their payment would be available for use representing them.
•By forbidding public works employees from opting out of membership or
payment of dues or fees, the State of Indiana requires those workers to bear
an increased burden of paying for services rendered to workers given the
option not to pay dues or fees.
•By allowing Local 150 to charge fees to construction workers but not
workers in other industries, the State of Indiana fails to provide equal
•RTW violates Article 1, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution, which
states that “no person’s particular services shall be taken by law without
just compensation.” By forcing unions to provide equal representation, as
required under the National Labor Relations Act, to workers who pay nothing,
the state is demanding services which constitute a property interest to the
•RTW is pre-empted by federal labor law insofar as federal law allows unions
to collect fees and that activity protected by the National Labor Relations
Act is criminalized under RTW.
•RTW violates state and federal ex post facto laws by declaring
agreements in place on the day RTW was signed illegal and criminally
On several counts, Local 150 is requesting that applicable sections be
invalidated, and because the statute was passed without a “severability
clause,” the local notes, if any one part of the statute is ruled invalid,
the entire law may be invalidated.
“Indiana legislators picked a fight with the middle class when they
introduced this law, and when workers are attacked, we fight back,” Local
150 President-Business Manager James M. Sweeney said. “Aside from being
intrusive government and bad public policy, this so-called ‘right to work’
legislation repeatedly violates two constitutions and nearly a century of
federal labor law. It discriminates among groups of workers and mandates
private businesses to provide service without compensation. This law is an
example of government gone wrong, and I am confident that the United States
District Court will find merit in our complaint.”
The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 represents more
than 23,000 working men and women (including approximately 4,000 in Indiana)
working in the construction, road building, excavation, public works,
drilling, concrete pumping, material testing, mining, landscaping and
various other industries. Local 150’s Indiana offices are located in
Merrillville and Lakeville, Indiana.