Union sues Indiana, says right-to-work law is slavery

By Michael P. Tremoglie | May 1, 2012


HAMMOND, Ind. (Legal Newsline) - The International Union of Operating Engineers on April 18 amended the complaint of a previously filed lawsuit that asks a court to invalidate Indiana's newly enacted right-to-work law.

The amended complaint now alleges that the law violates the Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment provisions against slavery.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. The union's amended action was reported by David Martosko of The Daily Caller in its April 22 edition.

He wrote, "The new lawsuit suggests that when nonunion employees earn higher salaries and better benefits because of the union's negotiation on behalf of its members, the union has been forced to work for those nonunion employees for free."

But violating the Thirteenth Amendment is not the only thing the IUOE is alleging. It also maintains the right-to-work law is a violation of the First Amendment.

F. Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, addressed this issue for the American Spectator's April 19 edition. He wrote, "On April 9, attorneys for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 argued that Indiana's Right to Work Law infringes on their free speech rights because -- get this -- it deprives them of the dues mandated from workers by 'agency shop' provisions."

The union does not stop with allegations of First and Thirteenth Amendment violations. The union claims Fourteenth Amendment violations of equal protection - basically for the same reason that it makes the slavery claim.

The IUOE asserts that the Indiana law violates the equal protection and contract clauses of the Constitution because it does not require nonunion employees to pay for bargaining. But according to W. James Young --- an attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is providing free legal aid to four employees who sought amicus status defending the new law --- the union's arguments are not true.

The argument proffered by unions is that nonunion employees are getting a free ride. Young maintains that what they are actually suffering is a forced ride, and the union could release from it at any time. It is the federal law that says salary and benefits negotiated by the union apply to nonunion workers - as long as the union wants to maintain a monopoly bargaining status.

"The 'free-rider' argument is a carefully crafted fraud," he said.

"Nonunion employees do not demand union 'representation' for which they do not want to pay; it is imposed upon them by federal law, a monopoly privilege granted to unions which win a bare majority of a representation election. But unions retain the right to represent only their members."

While the union is making the argument of compulsory labor, proponents of right-to-work laws believe such legislation protects the rights of individuals by permitting them to choose to be - or not to be - represented. Unions however choose to maintain their monopoly rights of bargaining.

According to Young, this "demonstrates that their real interest lies not in representation, but in acquiring and maintaining their power, as well as the forced union dues that employees are forced to pay in the absence of a right- to-work law."

Young also commented on the IUOE's allegation that a right-to-work law is tantamount to slavery. He said, "This just serves as an indication of the frivolity of the complaint as a whole. After all, these arguments were rejected by the Supreme Court decades ago."

But according to Nancy Cleeland, Public Affairs Director of the National Labor Relations Board, unions must negotiate on behalf of nonunion employees even in right-to-work states. They cannot opt out of representation.

When Indiana enacted its right-to-work law earlier this year it joined 22 other states to allow employees at unionized companies to keep their job without joining the union. Labor unions have vehemently opposed the effort.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office is defending the State.

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