By Abdul Hakim-Shabazz
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org.
When I read a few weeks ago that a Lake County judge had ruled that Indiana’s passage of right to work violated the state constitution, I had to work really hard to keep a straight face.
I frankly didn’t know which was more amusing – the fact that it was a Lake County judge or the fact that it was a Lake County judge. No, that was a not a typo.
Judge John Sedia (yes, I know he was a former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ appointee, but the fact he’s from Lake County cancels that out) basically said that RTW violated Article 1, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution which provides that, “No person’s particular services shall be demanded, without just compensation.” In plain English, unions say that under federal law they are “required” to represent non-dues paying members so RTW forces them to provide those services for free.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller has appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court.
A lot of experts doubt Judge Sedia’s holding will stand on a number of grounds. First of all, there is a strong presumption that all laws passed by the General Assembly are constitutional. Second, the question will be whether a union fits the definition of a “person” under Indiana code. Third, even if a union is considered to be a “person,” contrary to labor propaganda, unions are not compelled to represent everyone in the workplace.
When a union is certified, it can decide whether it wants to be “members-only” bargaining unit or represent everyone in the workplace. Under the “members-only” categorization, the union would represent members who pay dues. However, many unions won’t go that route because they lose a lot of the power granted to them by federal law, one of which is to collect fees from non-union members in states that don’t have a right-to-work law.
But let’s set aside the legal arguments. Just take a look at the impact RTW has had here in Indiana.
According to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, as of this summer, 109 companies have said the Hoosier state’s enactment of right to work will factor into their decision-making process of where to locate current projects. Seventy-two of these projects have progressed to the pipeline stage and account for the potential of nearly 11,000 projected new jobs and more than $2.9 billion in investment.
Of these 72 companies, 53 companies have already accepted the state’s offer, accounting for more than 6,619 projected new jobs and more than $2.2 billion in investment. And eight of those companies have publicly announced that right-to-work was a factor in their decision making process. That list includes Reflex & Allen, coming to Indianapolis, Whayne Supply, Professional Transportation, Inc., and SealCorp USA in Evansville, as well as Android Industries in Ft. Wayne
Opponents say the RTW law allows employees of companies like those to get free rides because unions are forced to provide representation to workers who don’t pay dues. But I would argue the biggest plus of RTW is that the opposite is true: It ends the forced ride of compulsory membership.
RTW simply gives workers a choice to pay union fees. If unions are doing their job and providing quality representation to their membership, then there is no reason that most individuals won’t pay for the service. Will there be some people who try to game the system Sure. But unions can address that by simply moving towards a “members-only” representation model where they only represent the workers who pay the dues or fees.
If you have to compel someone to pay for you to represent them, then maybe the problem isn’t them, maybe it’s you or the service you’re providing. Right to work was the right thing to do. Hopefully the Indiana Supreme Court will see that as well.
Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at email@example.com.