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Right-to-work law under legal scrutiny

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical during arguments Thursday about whether the state right-to-work law is unconstitutional.

While Justice Steven David conceded the law is "anti-union" he and his colleagues said the state statute itself doesn't require unions to pay for so-called "free riders." Instead, that is a federal law.

"The remedy here is to write your congressman," said Justice Mark Massa. "If you don't like free riders take it up with Congress."

Earlier this week a federal court upheld the law under the U.S. Constitution. But Thursday's battle focused on whether it is constitutional under the Indiana Constitution.

The case was the first appeal of two Lake County judicial rulings finding the state's right-to-work law violates the Indiana Constitution.

Lake Superior Judge John Sedia ruled the law violates the state's constitutional guarantee of compensation for services. That's because federal law requires unions to bargain for and provide legal representation in grievance cases for nonmembers at a unionized workplace.

Indiana lawmakers passed the right-to-work law in 2012 after an intense battle.

It prohibits unions and employers from requiring employees covered by a union contract to pay representation fees.

Supporters contend it is a freedom issue for workers and that businesses looking to relocate or expand skipped over Indiana in the past because Indiana was not right-to-work.

Opponents point to statistics showing wages are lower in right-to-work states and say the bill will weaken unions because employees will stop paying union fees and still retain the benefits.