[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that the Indiana right-to-work law [text, PDF] is valid under the US Constitution and federal labor laws. The legislation, enacted in February 2012, forbids an employer from requiring the payment of union dues as a condition for obtaining or keeping a job. The suit was brought by a local division of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which has a membership [Reuters report] of approximately 4,000 in the state. In a 2-1 ruling, the three-judge panel found the law is not preempted by federal labor laws and the law does not restrict free speech under the US Constitution. Roughly one year ago, an Indiana state judge ruled [JURIST report] the state's right-to-work law violates the Indiana Constitution. This decision is on appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court and will be argued [Bloomberg report] Thursday.
Nearly half of US states [NCSL report] have adopted labor laws known as right-to-work laws [JURIST backgrounder]. These laws have recently become established in traditionally union-strong states, and they allow companies to employ individuals without a mandate that the employees be union members. Two bordering states, Michigan and Illinois, have faced similar legal challenges related to right-to-work laws in the previous two years. JURIST Guest Columnist Karla Swift of the Michigan State AFL-CIO argued [JURIST op-ed] the right-to-work laws enacted by the Michigan Legislature in 2012 are unconstitutional and were enacted in violation of Michigan's Open Meeting Act.