House Dems lose right-to-work referendum vote

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Indiana House Democrats walked off the floor Monday after losing an effort to put a right-to-work measure aimed at unions before voters, possibly resuming an off-and-on boycott strategy aimed at derailing the measure for the second straight year.

Democrats ended a previous boycott earlier Monday and spent close to five hours debating the right-to-work measure with Republicans. But they left the House floor shortly after losing a party-line vote on the referendum proposal and losing close to a dozen votes to change the measure.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma and Democratic House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer quibbled over who was responsible for the renewed tensions. Bauer accused Bosma of cutting debate short before Democrats had finished offering amendments. Bosma accused Democrats of looking for a reason to resume their boycott.

Bauer said Democrats would meet again Tuesday to decide whether to return.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans had little trouble giving final approval to the right-to-work proposal, which would ban unions from collecting mandatory fees from workers.

The Senate voted 28-22 to send their right-to-work measure to the House.

Republicans, who have a 60-40 majority in the House, had little trouble beating back the series of Democratic proposals to automatically sunset the right-to-work bill if unemployment climbs too high, mandate that the state's economic development corporation disclose terms of business agreements and make other tweaks to the measure.

Lawmakers did approve a pair of Republican amendments to exempt building and construction trade unions from the measure and giving the Department of Labor enforcement authority. The two changes align the House measure with the Senate plan.

Republicans' efforts Monday prefaced what could be a relatively easy final House vote for the right-to-work bill, if Democrats end their boycott.

If the measure is adopted, Indiana would become the first state in more than a decade to approve right-to-work legislation. National advocates have tried without success to push the measure in New Hampshire and other states following a wave of Statehouse victories by Republicans in 2010.

Supporters say the right-to-work measure would bring more jobs to Indiana, where unemployment has crept up to around 9 percent. Opponents say it is aimed at breaking unions and claim it would depress wages for all workers.

Democratic Rep. Scott Pelath of Michigan City opened the lengthy debate Monday with a procedural move designed to kill the measure. Democrats supporting the motion said the legislation is the most divisive bill the Legislature has ever seen.

"This institution is best served if we just end this right here and right now," said Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Indianapolis. "If you look at the collateral damage that this institution has suffered ... you have to ask yourself, at what cost?"

Republican Rep. Jerry Torr of Carmel said the proposal was premature and the GOP-led House rejected the motion, 59-39, as union protesters chanted outside the House chamber.

Republican lawmakers were largely quiet throughout the hours-long debate, rising only occasionally to rebut Democrats. Republican Rep Ralph Foley of Martinsville argued that just because a measure is controversial does not mean it should be avoided.

"I think this is what we do, we don't avoid controversy," Foley said.

Indiana Democrats, who blocked similar legislation with a five-week walkout last year, are seeking a statewide voter referendum in November that would decide the fate of the right-to-work bill. Bauer introduced a version of the referendum on Friday that he said was designed to pass constitutional muster.

Republican leaders maintain that such a referendum isn't allowed under the state constitution and that the Legislature must decide what becomes state law. The Republican-led Senate rejected such a referendum last week.

The right-to-work battle has disrupted the legislative session that began Jan. 4 and has brought large crowds of union protesters to the Statehouse. Bosma last week imposed $1,000-a-day fines against absent Democrats, but a Marion County judge issued an order Thursday blocking those fines from being deducted from the state paychecks of boycotters who have sued.

If the legislation passes, Indiana would become the 23rd state to approve a right-to-work law, handing national conservatives and business groups a major win on an issue that has recently eluded them elsewhere. It also would deal another blow to organized labor, which has seen mixed results in its fight against initiatives to curb union rights nationwide that followed the Republican victories in 2010.

The last state to enact a right-to-work law was Oklahoma in 2001.


  • Teachers
    Well, if the union folks are correct, teachers will no longer get weekends and summers off, and there will be a dramatic increase in workplace deaths and dismemberments as a result of unsafe classrooms.

    On the other side, maybe the good teachers can decide they don't want to pay dues, keep that extra money, and let their efforts in the classroom determine their promotions and raises. The poor teachers, well, they can choose to keep paying their dues and hide behind the skirt of mediocrity.
  • effects to teachers unions?
    You hear about how this law is going to affect the labor unions...but nothing on how it is going to affect the teacher unions. I assume it will and they are the ones teaching our future. thoughts?
    • State Police
      I thought the State Police could force the Democrats to show up? Isn't that why they had to hide in Illinois last year?
    • Who Will Remember in November?
      It's probably well off the mark for pro-labor people to argue that this will cause a backlash against the Republicans in November. Remember that union members make up less than 11% of the population and there are some in that group (a minority indeed) who actually favor RTW. There are, no doubt, some non-union voters who are against RTW, but not a decisive number, which was why the referendum issue didn't gain enough traction.

      The more likely scenario is that if there is a backlash, it will be against the democratic party, which elected not to do the peoples' business for substantial portions of two sessions in order to satisfy a small, but noisy, faction of their constituency.

      Let's put this behind us. Unions won't go away. Those who believe the "union busting" clamor are choosing to ignore the facts.
    • You Go Dingus!
      $2.00? Looks like he picked that thing up on the side of the road. Maybe road kill?
    • RTW
      Mr. Bauer, you claimed that if the Republicans let you offer amendment to the right-to-work legislation you would stay in your seats and let the consequences be what they are. It's nice to see that your word is as good as that $2 hair piece you wear.

      Democrats weren't you the ones who said in 2008 that elections have consequences.
      • Get over it
        If this wasn't so serious it would be comical. The Democrats lost their majority in the state legislature. What about that do they not understand? When the Democrats are in the majority they pass their priorities of tax increases, more government regulations and increased power to the teachers' union. The electorate has removed the Democrats from their previous majority position but the Democrats will not accept the will of the electorate. Who do the Democrats think they are? Dictators? Agents of God? They are no longer the majority. They must stop acting like little children throwing temper tantrums. Get over it already - you are embarrassing those of us who embrace democracy as the best form of government.
      • Intimidation
        Any sympathy anyone felt for the unions should have flown out the window yesterday when they bused in the thugs to Mr. Bosma's neighborhood in a blatant attempt at intimidation.

        What possible other reason could they have for such a showing? Mr. Bosma wasn't even there. He was at the Statehouse working. Maybe that is what confused them.
      • BY BY UNION
        Look sorry there really is no reason for a union anymore and like it or not they do keep jobs away.Why are union jokes so funny because there is a lot of truth. Now as far as right to work if people what to be in a union they can whats wrong afraid if you give them a choice they wont join. Really so the only way you get members is by force unions had there time and place and are now nolonger needed period.
      • Some people are too stupid
        First off i want to address you Jerry. Be in a private construction company we can not hire illegals! We have to put everyone we hire thru the E-Verify system the same as everyone else. Just because they are from a different country you don't like them. BUT YET THEY WILL WORK TWICE AS HARD AS YOUR LAZY BUTT!! You can always tell a union site from a non union site. When you walk onto a union site you have one man doing all the work while 6 guys stand around and talk. When you walk on a private site everyone is working cause if one guy stands around will fire his rear end. Secondly, @ William, we don't need unions to be our voice any more. The federal government has passed laws that no state or company can violate. The reason jobs get shipped abroad is because its cheaper to build something on the other side of the planet then pay a huge amount of money to ship it here. THAT HAS TO TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR UNION COSTS! In closing this is a good thing. YOu think, we the majority are ruining you, your just ruining yourself. THE UNION DID THIS TO THEMSELVES WHEN YOU CLOSED THE GM PLANT LAST YEAR SENDING AWAY 500 GOOD PAYING JOBS! CONGRATS! Now reap what you sew.
      • Union Moderators?
        Gee, I don't think my comment deserved to be removed. Looks like IBJ is employing union thugs as moderators. Cancelling my subscription to IBJ - you can't handle the truth! (and don't want others to hear the truth!)
      • union busting
        This proposed law is nothing more than old fashioned union busting...using the republican legislators who want only to destroy unions and to silence the voice of the workers in the workplace. The middle class was created by and strengthened by organized labor giving workers a living wage, health care, workplace safety, due process and pensions! Sad to see republicans sell out their neighbors in exchange for scraps from the tables of the chamber of commerce and big business! Shame, shame, shame!!!
      • go for it
        Go for it jerry I am behind you.
      • stupid
        Democratic please stay away and union workers picket the super bowl week.
      • right to work
        Exempt will be Building and Construction companies. Why ?
        Is it because VANNATER is a Republican.
        and has a construction business in the Kokomo area and because construction companies can hire Illegal's like florida and Texas does.
        all i can say is there will be a sign on my lawn No Trepassing for republican candidates or campaigner's no solicitation allowed Keep off my property.

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