Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced in a statement Thursday that he would support Republican right-to-work proposals at the General Assembly next month, saying that Indiana "gets dealt out of hundreds of new job opportunities" because it doesn't have the law.
"Right-to-work says only that no worker can be forced to pay union dues in order to keep a job," Daniels said. "Lack of that simple freedom to choose costs some workers money they’d rather keep, but it also costs something even larger: Countless middle-class jobs that would come to Indiana if only we provided right-to-work protection."
Republican legislative leaders already have announced they would make right-to-work their top priority for the session. But while Daniels, a Republican, has said he supported the concept, he previously stopped short of saying he would back a right-to-work law in Indiana.
But on Thursday, the governor said that after a year of study and reflection, he has decided that "knowing how many additional jobs we could be capturing is what has persuaded me that we must enact this reform."
"When a business allows us to compete, we win two-thirds of the time," Daniels said in the statement. "But between a quarter and a half of the time, we don’t make the first cut, due to this single handicap."
Democrats and union leaders oppose right-to-work. They say it will weaken unions and lead to lower wages.
On Thursday, AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said the governor's decision to back the legislation "is disappointing."
"It's a little bit ironic as the governor has contended for seven years, Indiana can prosper with the labor laws that we have," Guyott said. "As a number of polls now show, it's not an issue Hoosiers are now clamoring for."
A Ball State University poll released Thursday found that nearly half of all Hoosiers are undecided about right-to-work.
The survey of 607 Hoosiers shows 27 percent of respondents support and 24 percent oppose right-to-work, which would free workers from paying fees to unions they don’t join.
The poll found 48 percent of respondents were undecided or had no opinion. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.