On Monday, the state Superior Court judge ruled Indiana’s so-called “right-to-work” law is unconstitutional. The controversial law requires unions to represent workers who do not pay dues, stripping them of crucial funds and effectively crippling workers’ ability to negotiate. According to Judge John Sedia, this provision also goes against the Indiana constitution’s ban on delivering services “without just compensation.”
Though conservatives claim these right-to-work laws boost the economy by attracting businesses, most workers suffer. The Economic Policy Institute found that the union-busting laws do nothing to create jobs while reducing all workers’ wages by roughly $1,500 a year regardless of whether or not they belong to the union. Workers in anti-union states are also far less likely to receive health insurance or pensions through their employers.
Indiana was the first state in the U.S. industrial belt to require unions to support non-union workers, closely followed by Michigan. The last time Indiana passed a right-to-work law in 1957, it was repealed eight years later because it was so unpopular. This time around, more than 10,000 workers marched on the Statehouse in protest. The NFL even took the fight to the 2012 Super Bowl, calling the law “a political ploy to destroy basic workers’ rights.” Still, Republicans blocked attempts to put the law up to a popular vote.
Union membership has sunk to Depression-era lows thanks to mass layoffs of public employees, anti-labor measures, and decades of labor legislation that gave employers the upper hand. As union membership declines, income inequality has soared and middle-class incomes have dwindled.
Indiana’s law will stay in effect as the state appeals to the Indiana Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the historic union stronghold is experiencing a revival of labor activity, as hundreds of the state’s fast food workers strike against low wages after walking off the job last week.