A big labor case filed in Idaho’s federal district court continues to progress. The case, entitled International Union of Operating Engineers Local 370 v. Wasden, Case No. 4:15-cv-00500, was filed on October 22, 2015. The complaint alleges that Idaho’s Right to Work (“RTW”) statute is unconstitutional based upon the 5th Amendment prohibition against takings of private property for public use without paying just compensation. The union’s theory is that because they have an obligation to bargain on behalf of ALL workers in a unit and Idaho’s RTW law allows workers to decide whether to join the representing union and pay dues, the law unconstitutionally deprives them of the dues they would otherwise have received from the workers for whom they are required by the NLRA to bargain and represent.
Idaho’s RTW statute prohibits any person from being compelled to join a union or pay union dues. It preserve the right of every worker to choose whether to belong to a union without jeopardizing employment opportunities. It prohibits closed shops in which employees must be dues paying members of the union as a condition of employment. Under a closed shop, an employee who ceases being a member of the union for whatever reason, from failure to pay dues to expulsion from the union as an internal disciplinary punishment, is required to be fired even if the employee did not violate any of the employer’s rules.
Attacks on other states’ RTW laws have been based on a variety of grounds, but the theory (5th Amendment) set forth in the Idaho suit appears to be novel. From my perspective, this line of attack is weak and not likely to gain much traction in the Idaho Disctrict Court; however, if the union loses and files an appeal, the case would be presented to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers a large part of the country and is notoriously liberal.
There are a number of motions before the federal district court, including many requests to file amicus curiae briefs (briefs from interested parties who are not directly involved in the lawsuit). I will follow this case closely and update you along the way. If you have any questions about this or any other legal topic, feel free to contact me.
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