State Government and Legislation and Politics and Government & Economic Development and Government and Labor

Indiana right-to-work bill on way to final vote

January 30, 2012

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said Monday he is ready this week to sign legislation to make Indiana the first state in a decade to enact a right-to-work law.

The state Senate is expected to take the final vote Wednesday on the bill that prohibits labor contracts that require workers to join a union or pay union fees. The House approved the proposal last week, and Republicans on the Senate's labor committee voted 6-1 to advance it Monday.

The Senate committee's three Democrats boycotted the meeting in protest, saying there was no justification for rushing the bill through and objecting to a decision by committee Chairman Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, to not consider any changes to the proposal Monday.

Republican Sen. Brent Waltz of Greenwood, who was among nine Republican senators to vote against the bill last week, was the single "no" vote in the committee Monday. Waltz said believes the proposal could cost the state jobs and won't raise wages for Indiana workers, but that he expects it will clear the Senate for final approval.

Right-to-work supporters insist the measure helps create a pro-business climate that attracts employers and increases jobs. Opponents say the law only leads to lower wages and poorer quality jobs. Many experts say states' economies respond to a mix of factors, ranging from swings in the national economy to demographic trends, and that isolating the impact of right-to-work is nearly impossible.

Dozens of union protesters cheered before Monday's committee hearing when Democratic Sens. Karen Tallian of Portage, Jim Arnold of LaPorte and Tim Skinner of Terre Haute announced their boycott. Skinner called the Senate's handling of the bill a "sham" and said that "no one has cared one whit what we've had to say to this point."

But they said the Democratic senators would take part in the debate and votes expected Tuesday and Wednesday on the bill. The 13 Democratic senators are too few to deny the Senate a quorum for taking action, as House Democrats did to slow action on the bill for numerous days this month.

Daniels, meanwhile, also said Monday that it would be a "colossal mistake" for union protesters to use festivities surrounding Sunday's Super Bowl in Indianapolis as a national stage to oppose the right-to-work proposal.

Union members and Occupy protesters have staged multiple marches in opposition to the legislation since the Super Bowl Village opened last week.

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