Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Indiana Judge Rules Right-To-Work Unconstitutional

From Daily Kos:

Here's the legal conflict:  The so-called "right to work" law makes it a criminal offense for unions to receive compensation for services federal law requires them to provide to workers even if they are not dues paying members. 

HOWEVER, the Indiana Constitution mandates that no one's services can be demanded without just compensation.

More here.

It took me a few minutes to get the gist of this, but once I doped out the reasoning, I found that, as an idea, it does, indeed, have some promise.  

Basically, the new "right-to-work" law in Indiana makes receiving dues or payment from non-union members a class A misdemeanor, a criminal offense.  Meanwhile, a standing federal law requires unions to make their services, legal representation, bargaining, etc., available to non-members, who then become financially liable for those services if used.  That is, under the federal law alone, no problem, the union can just send the non-member a bill for services rendered.  But that is now impossible in Indiana because it is illegal for non-members to be required to pay unions at all.  That means Indiana unions are effectively forced to render services without compensation, which is prohibited by the state's constitution.  So, on the surface, there's a massive conflict between laws.

My guess is that, given the massively pro-business climate across the land these days, the situation will simply end up allowing unions to charge fees to non-members for their services, but only when non-members actually use them, and under no other circumstance.  But maybe not.  There might be some catches here I'm not seeing.  For instance, could this be perceived by anti-union forces as having potential as a sort of recruiting wedge for unions, you know, pay less in dues now because you may have to pay a whole lot more later?  I don't know.  But this really is a nice little dilemma for "right-to-work."

And it may very well be a dilemma outside Indiana, too.  I'm sure the laws differ from state to state, but it seems to me that if federal law requires that unions make their services available to non-members, and non-members don't have to pay, somebody's being ripped off, some how, some way.  And we know how conservative judges love property rights.  Of course, we also know how conservative judges hate unions, too.

It's all confusing, I know.  But there might be something here, something gnawing at the very philosophical foundation for "right-to-work."  I'm going to try to keep track of this case.