Legislature and Opinion and Editorials

EDITORIAL: Democrats' right-to-work wrangling pointless

January 14, 2012

We share some of Democrats’ frustrations over right-to-work legislation.

The quest to pass the bill—which would deal a blow to unions by stripping them of the right to charge dues to workers who don’t want to join—seems largely rooted in GOP politics. We’re skeptical of Gov. Daniels’ repeated assertion that becoming a right-to-work state would be an economic game-changer.

Daniels continued the hyperbole at his Jan. 10 State of the State address, declaring, “We cannot go on missing out on the middle class jobs our state needs, just because of this one issue.”

Yet Democratic lawmakers need to come to grips with this reality: The Republicans have the votes to pass right-to-work this session. It’s going to happen. Stop whining about it and staging walkouts, and get on with the work you’re paid to do.

Last year, when Democrats derailed the session by staging a five-week walkout, was different. Right-to-work emerged as the surprise issue of the session, and the political forces weren’t yet aligned to assure passage. That protest had real purpose—and it ultimately succeeded in derailing the legislation.

But it’s been clear that the dynamics in 2012 would be stacked in favor of right-to-work since Daniels late last year said he would make it a centerpiece of his legislative agenda.

In his State of the State address, Daniels said he spent a year studying the proposal before taking a position. His conclusion: “The benefits in new jobs would be large: A third or more of growing relocating businesses will not consider a state that does not provide workers this protection.”

Such declarations understandably rankle Democrats. Backers of the legislation have repeatedly refused to cite the name of any company that has taken that position, Tom McKenna, who headed the Indiana Department of Commerce under Democratic Gov. Frank O’Bannon, told The New York Times last month.

“I think they’re making it up,” McKenna said.

But Democrats, who hold just 13 of the 50 seats in the Senate and 40 of the 100 seats in the House, have precious little political capital and must start using it wisely.

Lawmakers are going to consider and pass many other bills before the session wraps up in March. Democrats already have lost the battle on right-to-work. Rather than further stoking the partisan fury, they should focus on other issues. Continuing a lost war only reduces the likelihood they’ll get a voice on anything.

Time to win smoking fight

Once right-to-work clears the General Assembly, we hope Daniels uses his political muscle to finally win passage of a comprehensive statewide smoking ban.

Beyond right to work, Daniels’ State of the State address was relatively light on concrete goals for the legislative session. We were heartened that a smoking ban was among the issues he singled out as a priority.

“Public support has grown, and so has the evidence of health risk to workers. It is time to move this long-sought objective to the finish line,” he said.

We couldn’t agree more.•

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To comment on these editorials, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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