Indiana House deals blow to organized labor in Rust Belt

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In another blow to organized labor in the traditionally union-heavy Midwest, Indiana is poised to become the first new right-to-work state in more than a decade.

On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers cleared the way for the measure, which would makes it a Class A misdemeanor to require somebody to become a union member or pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Over the past year, Republicans have pushed for other anti-union laws in battleground Rust Belt states where many of the country's manufacturing jobs reside, including Wisconsin and Ohio, but they also have faced backlash from Democrats and union supporters. Wisconsin last year stripped public-sector unions of collective bargaining rights.

Despite massive protests, Wisconsin's GOP-dominated Assembly passed a law backed by Gov. Scott Walker in March that strips nearly all collective bargaining rights from organized labor. Walker is now preparing for a recall election after opponents turned in a million signatures aimed at forcing a vote and ousting him from office. In November, Ohio voters repealed a law limiting collective bargaining rights that was championed by Gov. John Kasich and fellow Republican lawmakers.

Indiana would mark the first win in 10 years for national right-to-work advocates who turned up their efforts following a Republican sweep of statehouses in 2010. But few right-work states boast Indiana's union clout, borne of a long manufacturing legacy.

Indiana's union dominance has waned, however. Only about 10 percent of workers in Indiana are members of a labor union, down from more than 40 percent in the mid-1960s.

In Oklahoma, the last state to pass right-to-work legislation, in 2001, less than 6 percent of workers are in unions.

Indiana's vote came after weeks of protest by minority Democrats who tried various tactics to stop the bill. They refused to show up to debate despite the threat of fines that totaled $1,000 per day and introduced dozens of amendments aimed at delaying a vote. But conceding their tactics could not last forever because they were outnumbered, they finally agreed to allow the vote to take place.

The House voted 54-44 Wednesday to make Indiana the nation's 23rd right-to-work state. The measure is expected to face little opposition in Indiana's Republican-controlled Senate and could reach Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' desk shortly before the Feb. 5 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Daniels, a Republican, supports the bill.

Economic development officials say many companies that would otherwise expand or relocate to Indiana bypass the state because it lacks a right-to-work law.

"This announces, especially in the Rust Belt, that we are open for business here," Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said.

House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer said the legislative battle was an "unusual fight" from the beginning, but Democrats waged a noble effort against majority Republicans determined to pass the bill.

"What did they fight for? They fought for less pay, less workplace safety and less health care," said Bauer. "This is their only job plank: job creation for less pay with the so-called right to work for less bill."

Hundreds of union protesters packed the halls of the Statehouse again Wednesday, chanting "Kill the bill!" and cheering Democrats who had stalled the measure since the start of the year.

Few Republicans spoke in favor of the measure during the two-and-a-half hours of debate. Instead Democratic opponents and a handful of Republicans who crossed party lines to oppose the measure, delivered emotional pleas to block it.

Democratic Rep. Linda Lawson called the Republican measure an attack on the union strongholds throughout the state.

"What you are doing is destroying my community!" said Lawson, who represents a northwest Indiana district packed with heavy manufacturers and a major BP oil refinery.

"What if I came into your community and said 'No more cows' and 'No more pigs?'" she said, referring to the agriculturally heavy districts represented by many of the Republicans who supported the bill.

Republicans foreshadowed their strong showing Monday when they shot down a series of Democratic amendments to the measure in strict party-line votes. Democrats boycotted again for an eighth day

Republicans handily outnumber Democrats in the House 60-40, but Democrats have just enough members to deny the Republicans the 67 votes needed to achieve a quorum and conduct any business. Bosma began fining boycotting Democrats $1,000 a day last week, but a Marion County judge has temporarily blocked the collection method for those fines.

The measure now moves to the Indiana Senate, which approved its own right-to-work measure earlier in the week. Gov. Mitch Daniels has campaigned extensively for the bill and said he would sign it into law.

Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said her team is still working on a long-shot bid to kill the measure in the Indiana Senate.

"We're going to do everything in our power; we're only at the halfway point," Guyott said after the House vote.

Teamsters President Jim Hoffa, in a statement released shortly after the vote, promised a voter backlash like those seen in other Midwest states

"I have little doubt in my mind that Gov. Daniels and Indiana's Republican members of the state House and Senate will see a tremendous backlash from their constituents if right-to-work is passed," Hoffa said. "If there's one thing that we have seen this past year, it's that working men and women will rise up to challenge any legislation that threatens the welfare of their families."


  • I'll get some solid info for comparison very soon.
    DCINDY->> I cannot prove you wrong. I do not know of any unions that have fallen. I will presume in 3, to 5 years maximum. Union workers will take an average of 8-10 dollars per hr. pay cut. And I Don't know about fringes just yet. But I will submit a list of some States welfare with union stats. I'll use websites like Wikipedia and the board of labor. They sound like good resources. I'll even consider calling the local halls for info. I feel like I'm not really persuading anyone lol. That brings me to a thought. If someone asked me what's my point of advocating this....hmmm....(5 min. later.) I don't want to see people making less.
  • Let's not over-react
    With union backing, Bauer and company have whipped union folks into a frenzy unnecessarily. This is not union busting. The other 22 RTW states all have active labor union participation in their economies.

    I really don't think this will have that much of an impact on organized labor.

    Prove me wrong. Produce a list of labor unions that have disbanded solely because of RTW laws or which have withdrawn from participating in the representation of the labor pool in RTW states.

  • missing nothing
    no your absolutely right. what happens now is nothing. not for now. unions continue to collect or now we'll say 'accept" dues. and some members will just stop paying dues. that won't happen in the Operating Engineers. not in local 103. not for a while at least. eventually as members retire and new apprentices hired they are less likely to pay dues. resulting in a weaker administration weakening the overall strength. i.e.; there wouldn't be a government without money. it wouldn't exist. so it would simply implode as you said. good comment. not many see it like you.
  • Response to Dathon
    Your own words: "the only thing i have in response to that is> companies that have been successful in keeping unions out are exactly the ones that don't need them. and that is GREAT. not everybody needs them."

    That is exactly the point. Not everyone needs the union and should therefore not have to join the union or pay their dues. Yet they should still be able to work anywhere that they are qualified to work.
  • facts.
    well maybe my opinion is a bit biased because i am not in the manufacturing sector. which catch a ton of flack...over paid and lazy. i am a crane operator. A skilled trade. a lot of responsibility and i work a lot. i can personally be sued if i make a costly mistake. but when i think of unions know this. in a one to one conversation with an employer i was told i wasn't worth half the money he has to pay me. i replied with "so who's the stupid one" companies that are ran with such greed and tyranny are the ones in need of a union. just to make sure i'm paid fair. i liked TJINDY's comment. the only thing i have in response to that is> companies that have been successful in keeping unions out are exactly the ones that don't need them. and that is GREAT. not everybody needs them. if you told me i could make the same amount of money and all that at company "B" as i do at company "A" meanwhile backing whichever political side i want. i'm going to go to comp. "B" but it doesn't happen like that all the time. and when it don't, you need a powerful structured negotiator. bottom line is. unions are for people making a better living. and as for facts. i am on all kinds of jobs of building trade. are you? and i want to raise one question. are they all legal? are they criminals? do they pay taxes. i'm no racist but i have a patriotism about me that shows. i want americans doing jobs before foreigners. my last employer (non- union) told me that he had to report all the social security numbers and was returned with a list of who the legals were. but was instructed that he, by law, could not fire them because. so if that shop was union. do you think i would be sharing this story. you don't see foreigners in union jobs cause not many are legal. and most apprenticeships a 4 years or better. back to my point>> unions back american jobs for higher living.
  • Be careful what you wish for
    I'm not pro union. By and large, most union leaders are idiots - they've collectively bargained their way to irrelevance. However, I'm staunchly against legislating power away from the unions, because - and this is important - they will never be able to regain that power.

    Unions may stink on ice right now, but if we start weakening them, then in 10, 20, 30, maybe 50 years, we will be back to working 80 hour days for subsistence wages. The battles that these unions fought can likely never be won again, especially in today's era where elections are essentially bought and paid for by big-money interests. You might not like unions, but they are the yin to big business' yang: they keep us balanced. Just as you don't want to live someplace where union bosses call all the shots, you don't want to live someplace where Wall Street analysts call all the shots either.

    Publicly owned businesses today are maniacally pro-profit, and if many of them had their way, all but a select few of us would be screwed. So, be careful what you wish for, because there's a chance you may be wishing away your grandchild's ability to earn a middle class living.
    Great Fight Repubs.
    I'm all for this and I applaud the way you have stuck to this fight and BEAT the Democrats.

    I only wish we could vote Mitch Daniels in for another term.

    Then Indianapolis would very likely become the Jewel in the crown of all Midwest states.

    RTW is a step in the right direction for everyone in this state except for top Union Execs who have been lining their pockets and the Dems pockets for years with hard working peoples money.

    Jim Hoffa is the Teamsters Union leader??? Seriously? I didn't know that. Is he related to Jimmy Hoffa? Wasn't Jimmy Hoffa an exemplary Union Leader from a few years back?
  • What's the real point?
    RTW is not about keeping your compulsory union dues from going to political contributions. The Supreme Court ruled that unions must refund that portion of dues to whomever requests it 24 years ago in CWA vs. Beck.

    It's sad that RTW is framed and reported as some type of protection for workers. It's nothing more than an attempt to kill unions so that employers can lower their costs. One may believe that unions should be abolished, but why can't we have an honest discussion about that instead of this canard about protecting workers. Whether or not an individual worker is compelled to pay union dues means nothing to an employer, but sabotaging the ability of the union to exist and function is important to some employers. My understanding is that a union is only formed when a majority of the workers vote to form one, so what is wrong with that? Let the workers choose their fate. If they choose to not have a union or not have compulsory dues, so be it. Why take away the union's right to decide its own rules? How is it different from most anything else in life where a majority rules? How about if we say that a condominium association can't force an owner to pay association dues? How much sense does that make? Why is this any different? You can choose to live in a condo/cooperative housing development or not? Just like you can choose to work in a union workplace or not. But either system will implode if nobody is required to pay for the shared benefits.
  • Am I missing something?
    Am I missing something here? Everything I've read from various sources and in this article about RTW says it doesn't ban unions. It just gives the worker a choice to join or not and it can't force them to pay the union if they aren't a member. If the union is strong enough and good enough I don't see that they have anything to worry about. It doesn't stop a non-union shop from going union and it doesn't force anyone out of the union either. Rep. Lawson's argument doesn't hold water for me. Or, as I said, am I missing something?
    • Pro sports unions
      Does this mean the Super Bowl will be concelled because of the union players????
    • Right to Work is Good Business
      The fact is that unions have outlived their usefulness. Back in the early 20th century, unions were vital in establishing work place rules and regulations. As previously stated, these are laws within the federal and state governments in Indiana. Unions have refused to see the shift in how business is now done in the United States. Companies and employees should have the right to conduct business without the interference of unions and national union policies. Companies that have been successful in keeping union representation out have paid their employees well, offered benfits and have been successful in competing with their competition in offering American-made products at competitive prices. People have to remember that we are now a society that wants their products at 'Walmart' prices and they do not care where they are made. There was a time where Sam Walton advertised that he purchased American made products over forgein made products. The American consumer demanded through their purchasing powers to have the lowest priced items. Therefore, American manufacturers had to ove overseas to compete or die, because unions and their membership would not allow for changes in pay and benefits, like pensions (another dinosaur) to be reduced or eliminated. Right to work is what will make Indiana a very competitive place for companies to come and build their businesses in.
    • Not True
      Dathan Lawler-----I'm sure you're a good person, who loves his family and works hard,but right to work is not about that. It is about the fact that if I get a job at the same company as you and I don't want the union to take MY money out of MY paycheck and use it to give to democratic candidates campaign coffers, I now have the right to say NO to them. I'm sure you don't want to take a pay cut from $23 to $18, but if you don't the reality is that your job will be shipped to asia or mexico and you will make $0 an hour. OSHA is not going away, so neither is safety. As far as your Mexican worker story....come on, you have got to be smarter than that. Jose the Mexican is cannot be hired any easier by "right to work" That is taken care of by the "E-verify" system which does the background check. Unions had their day in the sun and did many, many, good things for the 40hr work week, overtime rules, safety, etc. but those achievements are now set in stone and unions are no longer needed.
    • and what do you really know?
      are you blue collar? are we paid too much. what if you had established a certain lifestyle. you eat here, you by grocers. here. this is you doc. your moderate car, kids in sports. they have nikes. and i'm certain whoever you are you DO have a lifestyle and all of a sudden someone comes along and says you know what....... i know i pay you 23 dollars an hr. but now i'm gonna pay you 18. minus the health care. minus the pention. and also it's not going to be as safe to work here. so whatever it is you do for a living it must be cozy. if you don't understand what's really going on here. and it's not effecting you.....your clearly not union. then why get on here and share your un thought out opinion. if all of your neighbors were foreclosing on their properties driving down your property value maybe you would feel different. i don't even plan on retiring from my union yet i still support higher paying jobs. its ethical. it's moral. unions are for the people. and as for you using the word "ELITE" wikipedia.....average union paying job in USA. 47K. i guess average is lower????? people for some reason don't want others making more. i will speak about this long after this day. with less money in your local economy. we will all suffer. right to work also allows mexicans and others without verifiable social sec. #'s to work. meaning bob. has a company in texas. and you have a local company. you pay your men good wages and bob has 16 mexicans. bob gets the job cause he has a lower bid than you. well he pays his workers and they all take their money back with them to TX. please do not do a little more. do a lot more investigating for yourself. Maybe you will feel similar. and one other thing. i'd pay 10 dollars for a cheeseburger as long as i knew your kids' college and your house and bills were all riding on it. dathonlawler@live.com
      • I agree!
        the original theory of unions protecting workers sounded great. Too bad it hasn't worked out in reality- except for a very few.

        I don't see the benefit of a union for the country in general, except for a very few-mostly corrupt- union elites. That 9% of the workforce that is unionized? boo hoo. The rest of us do just fine with no union.
        • boo hoo
          the sooner these "union" activists figure out that unions are now dinosaurs that are causing the increasing cost of living the better off they will be.
          union wages are too high,which,in turn causes higher prices to cover the cost of the ridiculous pay scales union people are paid.
          I worked as a NON UNION electrician for 25 years. when the "dust" settled after i retired it turns out I made MORE money,Worked shorter hours,got the same if not better benefits,and had better job security than a union electrician. The only thing a union could have offered me was job arbitration if i was fired.......now who wants to go back and work for a company they were "released" from?? sounds as stupid now as it did then!

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