Fight over labor legislation heats up at Statehouse

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A few hundred union protesters were on hand Friday morning for a public hearing before Indiana legislators on a divisive labor bill that's prompted a two-day standstill in the Indiana House.

The Senate and House labor committees are holding a joint hearing on the proposal to prohibit contracts between companies and labor unions that require workers to pay mandatory representation fees.

Republicans have set aside four hours for the hearing, after which the Senate committee is expected to vote.

Supporters of the bill say it would make the state more attractive to employers, while opponents maintain it is an attack on unions and would drive down wages.

Protesters were quiet during the hearing, but some held signs with sayings such as "Stop the war on workers."

During the hearing, Republican Sen. Brent Waltz of Greenwood asked the president of the Oklahoma chamber of commerce whether the energy industry had a greater impact on that state's economic health than its adoption of a right-to-work law in 2001. Waltz says he wasn't convinced about the law's economic sway.

The Oklahoma official told the labor committees that the law gives his state a competitive advantage over Indiana in attracting new businesses.

House Democrats are bracing for major financial pain as they begin a third day blocking a bill that would make Indiana the first state in more than a decade to enact right-to-work legislation.

Fines of $1,000 daily for each Democrat could hit Friday, depending on what Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma decides to do with lawmakers who deny him the numbers needed to push through the Republican priority.

But Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, said that if she can stand on principle against the labor bill and fines that could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars, other Democrats can, too.

"I'll be the main one to say 'I cannot stand the fine,'" she said Thursday as Democrats strategized in a private meeting at the Statehouse. "I'm a single mother, I have a son in college, I'm moving in with my mother, but I'm on the right side of history. So whatever happens is going to bless me."

Democrats stalled business Wednesday, the first day of the 2012 session, when they did not report to the House floor. They continued Thursday to block action on a right-to-work measure that would bar private unions from collecting mandatory fees.

Republican leaders planned a joint hearing Friday to weigh the measure and Senate lawmakers were prepared to take an initial vote on the measure afterward.

Inside the 40-member caucus, lawmakers are split over how much they can afford to keep stalling in order to block the bill. Some strode out of Thursday's caucus meeting saying that if they suffered through last year's five-week stay in Urbana, Ill., they can stand on principle now.

But others said new $1,000-a-day fines established by Republicans after last year's walkout have raised the stakes much higher than some can afford.

"Last year they were taking my bank account, this year they're taking my home," said Rep. David Cheatham, D-North Vernon. Cheatham was one of three Democrats who has joined Republicans in the House chamber each day. They say they oppose the right-to-work measure but don't agree with the stall tactics.

House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer said Thursday that Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma told him in a private meeting he would begin fining Democrats on Friday.

"It's a significant issue. We think it's another assault against free speech," Bauer said as he walked into the House Democratic caucus meeting.

But Bosma said he had not decided whether to begin implementing the fines Friday and that no legal paperwork had been started.

"We're just counting on folks having some common sense and showing up for work eventually," Bosma said.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, joined the three Democrats on Thursday for a quorum vote that placed Republicans very close to getting the numbers they need to push the bill forward. He said he is asking Republicans to give them more public hearings on the issue.

He also noted there is little Democrats can do to stop the measure.

"That's the quandary, and we have to decide: What we can we do?" DeLaney said. "We have limited resources and we have a limited number of votes."

National right-to-work advocates say they see Indiana as their best shot at passing the labor bill into law. Despite a slate of statehouse wins across the nation in 2010, Republicans have been unable to move the measure yet. They came closest in New Hampshire, but lawmakers could not find the votes to overturn Democratic Gov. John Lynch's veto.

Bauer and other Democrats would not say Thursday how long they planned to stall. Instead, Bauer said, they plan to hold public hearings on the proposal around the state as soon as this weekend. The first hearings could happen in Fort Wayne and Evansville.

The new law levies a fine of $1,000 per day against each lawmaker who sits out more than three days in a row. Republicans established the new penalties after Democrats left the state last year to block the right-to-work measure.

The House Democratic caucus meanwhile opened an account on the Democratic fundraising website ActBlue and sent out an appeal Wednesday on Facebook seeking donations of between $5 and $250. "The Indiana House Democrats NEED YOUR HELP! Please support our caucus as we fight another battle against the Republicans as they try to push RTW legislation through without listening to working Hoosiers," the Democrats wrote in their appeal.

Indiana Democratic Party spokeswoman Jennifer Wagner said her group did not pay for any of the penalties accrued last year and did not plan to pay any fines this year.

A lawsuit challenging fines from last year's session filed by Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, is still being weighed by a Marion County Superior Court judge.


  • Re-election
    Last time a group did not represent their district by not showing up to work, many said they'd not re-elect the "lazy bums." So, who elected this round of "lazy bums?" When will people again stand up and fight what they believe in and then allow the majority rule?
  • Right to Work Law
    I am from vancouver,canada and i wanted to say that this Right to Work Law is as reactionary as you can get.This is going back to the 1800s.All progressive people in the world should fight against these kind of laws.With laws like this been passed the next thing you know Patrick Buchanin will be president.Without unions the working class will be no better than slaves.
  • Reply to JH
    The Stamping Plant sale was killed by the union. The buyer announced that he could only pay $15.00 an hour, plus benefits and General Motors offered to add $14.00 per hour for the first two years following the sale. In a competitive marketplace, with offshore competition driving prices lower, the ability to employ 300 or more people at $15.00 per hour seemed acceptable to me, but I am not in the union. The days of workers earning $30.00 per hour to manufacture products are long gone. I believe that unions built the middle class after WWII, however companies were driven offshore due to production costs, and the unions were offered the option of helping by lowering salaries over time, and the unions refused. I support a right to work process, and the unions do not. This issue could be tabled until after the elections in November, however I do not see a change in the legislative process going into 2013, and we need manufacturing jobs now.
  • Answer to TLS
    When a fellow gets employed by a Union Shop and decides he won't pay dues, it's not that he works for less, the Union has to make sure he gets the same wage as the union employee otherwise it could tear down the conditions on the job and make it harder to bargin. You would get the same health and welfare insurance, the same pension, same vacation pay and representation as a dues paying member. So that's why we're against RTW. It wouldn't take long to break the Union financially. I will tell you this if you get rid of the Unions you'll find out what a fine bunch of individuals the employer's are. Read a little history in the unions, Suggested readings would be about the coal industry and the their persuasive use of force to try and scare the workers from forming a union. Them paying them in script that could only be used at their company store. when done the people had nothing. Unions gave us 40 hour work week, Child labor laws, pensions and insurance that's affordable and much more. In other words what was once called the American Dream. I've heard guys that work for non Union Companies say they make good money without a Union but the reason thay have that money is because of Unions. But go ahead and see what happens when no one stands up for the employee. If you go in and ask for a raise after a long period of time and then the boss fires you because he can get a new guy cheaper. Don't think it can't happen because its part of history and if you don't learn from history your doomed to repeat it.
  • How little you know about today's unions
    I am a IBEW local 481 union electrician. I have a college education provided by Ball State's Honors College. I went through a 5 year apprenticeship. I am highly trained and skilled. I am motivated, show up to work everyday, and give 8 hours work for 8 hours pay. I have no paid sick days, no vacation days, no paid time off. I get paid to show up and work. If I don't make my contractor money, then they don't win bids.

    Buildings don't just build themselves because I show up. The lights don't just come on because I walk in. I read forums like these and all I ever see is people bash unions and how lazy we all supposedly are, and I cant do anything but chuckle. Most of you are filled with ignorant hatred and jealously. Do a little research before you spew your anti union rhetoric.

    Right to work is about 1 thing. If you take the money out of unions hands, then Democrats lose the biggest financial backer. This is only about politics. If the democrats have no money, and republicans have unlimited funds provided by business, then republicans win elections.
  • reply
    Every penny must be accounted for. It must all be kept for audits and is available to any member at any time. As with most nonprofits, the finances are scrutinized much more closely than would be for a business. Unions are limited on the amount they may donate to any political candidate. Businesses were limited till it was recently changed to unlimited donations for them.
    • Dump Bauer
      I don't buy into the argument that right to work automatically leads to reduced wages. However, how much money would employees keep in their pocket if union dues were not automatically deducted from their pay check? Do unions ever provide financial statements to their members explaining how and where union dues are spent?
      • wow....
        As I understand this, right now a union can require that you join the union in order to be employeed at a company with unionized employees. Is that right? Right To Work means I have the right to work there without joining the union. Who can argue against that? Oh yeah, just unions that want to extort more dues by making membership mandatory. This is a PERFECT example of how unions have gone soooooo wrong. I bet most of the people protesting don't even understand the real issue, they are brainwashed to think "it's an assault on the working man"...... I would like to have the right to work anywhere that will hire me without having to fork over big dues to someone that does not represent me or my work ethic!
      • More jobs = better wages
        If you look at history you'll find that when there are more jobs there is more competition for workers. More competition for workers means better benefits and better pay. This isn't a Republican or Democrat fight, it's a common sense issue that can easily be researched and proven by our own history. In addition, from someone who suffered from unemployment, a lower paying job puts food on the table and pays the bills more effectively than no job. Maybe the impact won't be seen the very next day, but as companies relocate to Indiana, and competition for workers increases so will our benefits and wages.

        And the law will not prevent unions from forming in companies nor will it prevent workers from signing on to a union if that is their choice. And part of this issue is the way unions have operated, just like big companies that got "too big to fail" so have some unions. They need smart effective courageous leaders, not bloated old school idealists who refuse to change to meet the needs of the times.
      • Amazed
        As I read the comments by those who support an employee's freedom to choose what he/she believes to be in his/her best interests, and then contrast them with the almost non-sensical blatherings put forward by those opposed to Right-To-Work, I don't know whether to laugh or cry... it is sad and embarrassing that something this obvious demands so much attention! Thinking people will not be able to stop the House Dems/Pat Bauer from continuing their ridiculous antics until legislative rules are enacted which prevent such shenanigans - a democracy can only function under majority rule - otherwise it decomposes to an anarchy, which is what the Indiana State Democratic Party is attempting to push on the good citizens of our state. Either go to the polls and vote the Dems out of office this November, or accept that we will continue to live with this cancer.
      • Bauer - free speech
        Isn't Bauer exercising his freedom of speech when he shows up to vote against something he does not agree with. Seems to me like that is a much more powerful expression of speech than hiding in a room because you can't win...

        I wonder if Bauer requires that ALL Ivy Tech employees be unionized?
      • Public Hearings
        Why didn't Rep. Bauer hold public meetings last year? This issue has been on the front burner since the last legislative session, so why is Bauer and company saying Speaker Bosma is trying to fast track the legislation?
      • An assault against Free Speech? Awww, c'mon man !
        I'm still laughing at Bauer's comment that Democrats choosing to not show up for the work they were elected and hired to do will have their rights to free speech violated. Any elected official has extra-ordinary free speech rights whenever he/she chooses to exercise them, by taking the microphone in their chamber, by voting on bills and by speaking on potential legislation during hearings or committee meetings. If they choose to not do these things, they have only themselves to blame for any free speech restraints. Bauer pulls a very nice paycheck as a Vice President at Ivy Tech. Ivy Tech receives money from the State. Does Bauer neglect his Ivy Tech duties when he doesn't agree with issues the way he's doing now? There's a civil way for opposing parties to conduct themselves ... walking out and refusing to participate in the process and then whining that rights are being violated is a slap in the face to our Founding Fathers.
      • Jesus
        Huh, I didn't know Jesus was in the Carpenters Union...
      • amazed at how blind some are...
        Union protection? Remember when the Union bosses begged the local union to take a pay cut so they could unload the stamping plant downtown?

        Look at Anderson, Marion, Kokomo, etc... What did the unions give those people?

        The unions turned "made in America" into "Assembled in America".

        What a great lesson the Democrats are teaching our kids. "If you can't win, run away" Just like Obama said, Elections have concequences.
        • Fire Bosma
          @Berwick Guy--I'd fire Bosma before Bauer and his lapdog minions (as you called them). Like Bosma and his Republicans aren't lackeys to corporate interests? In addition, Bosma and his ilk have wasted a lot of taxpayer dollars and time on red herrings like gay marriage and defending prayer in the Statehouse as opposed to fixing real problems in our state. Bosma's holier-than-thou act has grown tiresome--especially now that he's ready to ram through a law that may very well diminish the quality of life of many Hoosiers. Is that what Jesus would do?
          • What Protections Has Big Labor Really Given?
            I grew up in Anderson and have been there a lot lately. The unions gained prominence there after WWII when GM was growing to meet the new post-war demand for automobiles.

            The UAW ultimately killed Anderson. It chokes me up to see what a depressed, desolate place it has become. The UAW convinced people that the union protection was all they needed -- no need for higher education. Now those that still live there are unemployable. The schools are among the worst in the state. People who do find work there live in Fishers, or Pendleton, or somewhere else -- and reverse commute, so their kids at least have a chance to rise above mediocrity (not that they all do). Ask yourself how much money the UAW spends on scholarships.

            My parents and grandparents should have seen it comin'...artificially high wages, poor education and no risk of being fired are a bad formula. The auto workers were first to go. Now it's the teachers that are being let go. You can't blame that on bad management or low-wage foreign competition.
          • Explain Lower Wages
            I read the http://indianarighttowork.com/ website and did not find anything delineating why/how RTW would lower wages.

            As I understand it, employees could either opt to join the union and receive union wages or opt not to join the union and receive non-union wages. Assuming that is the crux of the matter, wouldn't it follow that those who valued the benefit the union provides would pay dues and receive the higher wages while those who didn't think the union's value was worth dues, would take the lower non-union wages.

            Seems that everyone would have the choice to do what was right for them. What am I missing?
            • Agree with Rick
              Right to Work is a big deal. AND most of us don't know a great deal about it. There has to be a reason that NO state has enacted it in over 10 yaers -and it's not totally related to union clout. The states with right to work, from what I have read are the poorest of the states. Is it worthwhile to have more jobs if they aren't paying enough to live on? I lean more Republican than Democrat and detest unions but I don't feel right abbout this being rammed through.
            • If I didn't show up for work...
              I would be let go. Let's let the go. Everyone of them that do not show up to work for us should be fired. We are their boss and they need to get to work for us. Hopefully, the firing will happen at the ballot box. The point is not the RTW, the point is for those gutless wonders to show up and work.
            • Not sure how I feel
              I'm against the practices of modern unions, but I'm against weakening them too. I have no faith that corporations would treat workers fairly if they weren't forced to. I also don't think the victories won by the labor unions of yore are repeatable given today's insanely pro-business legislative climate, so I hesitate to take anything away from those victories, lest we return to the world of child-labor sweat shops.

              I guess, in an ideal world, the labor unions would simply pull their heads out of their arses and negotiate reasonable benefit and wage packages instead of driving companies out of business. In return, I wish companies who agree to things like pensions would fund them properly instead of planning on funding them from future profits like some pyramid scheme.
              • Educate Yourself
                A website supporting Right To Work can be found at http://www.moreindianajobs.com/.

                A website opposing Right To Work can be found at http://indianarighttowork.com/.
              • Apparently there are no tests to join a Union
                Benefits not benifits.

                Let's talk benefits. The benefits of a right to work state is that more companies would consider Indiana as a place to put a company and would allow us to keep more.

                Dana, Borg-Warner, GM Stamping, Ford, Federal Mogul, Gencorp, Delphi, Visteon all moved from Indiana to non-union states or countries...all because Union leadership is stubborn and refused to understand the reality of the markets.

                Unions had a place when the Cretins were making boys dig coal mines, but that was 75 yrs ago. We were a regional market and not a world market at that point. Things change and the Unions refuse to bend with these changes.

                The UAW decided it would be better to let GM Stamping close its doors rather than make concessions to keep hundreds working. Who exactly are they protecting?

                I'm sorry the world changed and the Unions ignored the way things work now. I'm even more sorry their leadership led them to ignore these changes and fight even harder against change. It's time the Unions tell their members they're sorry for these mistakes and make changes to work with the companies that provide the jobs.

                Think about this for a minute...the only jobs Unions ever provided were for the leadership that has put their memebership at an all time low and cost their own people thousands of jobs.

                Indiana native Jim Jones had a plan to protect his people and they all died from cyanide poisoning because they blindly followed his lunacy. Time to open your Union eyes, Pat Bauer is mixing the Kool-Aid as we speak.
              • Winner
                The only winner in Right-to-work are top management in big business. The worker bees get lower wages most of the time no benifits. How can this be good for Indiana or the people of Indiana?
              • Winner
                The only winner in Right-to-work are top management in big business. The worker bees get lower wages most of the time no benifits. How can this be good for Indiana or the people of Indiana?
              • No Work, No Pay
                I'm fine with Democrats using this as a Freedom of Speech issue. Now, lets put a referendum on the State ballot for next November that says:
                "If an opposing faction walks out and refuses to debate or vote on proposed legislation, then the requirements for a quorum do not need to be met."
                Maybe this will make them work.
                Can you imagine what Democrats would be saying if the Republican party did this kind of thing?
              • Is there anything real about Bauer
                Any man that walks around this world with a "big lie" on his head like Bauer's tupee is telling...what else does he lie about?

                This temper tantrum he is leading is just as ridiculous, does nothing to solve the problem, only draws attention to himself and just as fake as the hair on his fat little head.

                I think it was Obama who has famously said that elections have consequences...so unless they can win more seats, they need to get to work.
              • ibj coversations
                For the Republican's to use the Term.
                That a Business or Corporation.
                Will not Locate in Indiana is Wrong.
                Right To Work.
                Is about corporations deliberately Driving Down wage's
                Healthcare And Retirement Pension's..
                And under Mining the American Economy.For the sake of a Short-Term Profit..
                This Bill will not only effect a Major Corporation. But as well any business or company that are represented with any Union..
                It's just in time for the Super Bowl and makes me wonder why They have not Attacked the Colt's or Pacer's because you see they to are unionized.....
                • votes for right to work paid for
                  I feel both sides have been bought & paid for by unions. big business, big pharma & etc and I don't feel either side should be voting on the "right to work" until they post how much has been "contributed" to them for their vote.
                • Pathetic
                  Urgent Message To All Voters in Indiana - Please write down now on a piece of paper that the Democrats are once again on a temper tantrum very similar to their baby antics last year. Remember to pull out this note this November when it is time to vote. Please let your note serve as reminder why you should vote for adult leadership.
                • Free Speech?
                  How is making folks show up to perform their duties and voice their opinions an "assault against free speech"? That statement by Bauer is an assault against common sense.
                • wake up
                  Typical, the serfs continue to bow down to the lord and masters of the plantation. This is called democracy, this is called the minority party has a right and an obligation to voice their mantra. The Bosma, Mitchie, Kennley plan for Indiana has not worked so well. The unemployed and underemployed are hurting. The people of Indiana deserve better, how about after decades in public office people have to retire. New ideas, not old stale policies that do not work that need to be redone.
                • Hold out
                  When you get too far in bed with the unions, you don't have much to say when they are holding you hostage. Sad story, that the once proud Democratic Party, which once represented all the people has stooped so low to the tactics they are employing.

                  Hey, in my job, if I hold out and don't go to work, I get fired. Folks, are we ready to fire Speaker Bauer and the rest of his lap dog minions?

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                  1. Aaron is my fav!

                  2. Let's see... $25M construction cost, they get $7.5M back from federal taxpayers, they're exempt from business property tax and use tax so that's about $2.5M PER YEAR they don't have to pay, permitting fees are cut in half for such projects, IPL will give them $4K under an incentive program, and under IPL's VFIT they'll be selling the power to IPL at 20 cents / kwh, nearly triple what a gas plant gets, about $6M / year for the 150-acre combined farms, and all of which is passed on to IPL customers. No jobs will be created either other than an handful of installers for a few weeks. Now here's the fun part...the panels (from CHINA) only cost about $5M on Alibaba, so where's the rest of the $25M going? Are they marking up the price to drive up the federal rebate? Indy Airport Solar Partners II LLC is owned by local firms Johnson-Melloh Solutions and Telemon Corp. They'll gross $6M / year in triple-rate power revenue, get another $12M next year from taxpayers for this new farm, on top of the $12M they got from taxpayers this year for the first farm, and have only laid out about $10-12M in materials plus installation labor for both farms combined, and $500K / year in annual land lease for both farms (est.). Over 15 years, that's over $70M net profit on a $12M investment, all from our wallets. What a boondoggle. It's time to wise up and give Thorium Energy your serious consideration. See http://energyfromthorium.com to learn more.

                  3. Markus, I don't think a $2 Billion dollar surplus qualifies as saying we are out of money. Privatization does work. The government should only do what private industry can't or won't. What is proven is that any time the government tries to do something it costs more, comes in late and usually is lower quality.

                  4. Some of the licenses that were added during Daniels' administration, such as requiring waiter/waitresses to be licensed to serve alcohol, are simply a way to generate revenue. At $35/server every 3 years, the state is generating millions of dollars on the backs of people who really need/want to work.

                  5. I always giggle when I read comments from people complaining that a market is "too saturated" with one thing or another. What does that even mean? If someone is able to open and sustain a new business, whether you think there is room enough for them or not, more power to them. Personally, I love visiting as many of the new local breweries as possible. You do realize that most of these establishments include a dining component and therefore are pretty similar to restaurants, right? When was the last time I heard someone say "You know, I think we have too many locally owned restaurants"? Um, never...