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Indiana House Dems return after right-to-work boycott

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Indiana House Democrats returned to work Monday after their third boycott this year over right-to-work legislation, but swiftly moved to strike down the measure and put an end to what one lawmaker called "collateral damage."

The Democrats' return gave Republicans the number of lawmakers needed to take another vote on the proposal to ban unions from collecting mandatory representation fees from workers. But Democratic Rep. Scott Pelath of Michigan City opened what was expected to be lengthy debate with a procedural motion to kill the bill.

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. The GOP-led House rejected the motion, 59-39, as union protesters chanted outside the House chamber.

Republicans are pushing for Indiana to become the first state in more than a decade to approve right-to-work legislation. Supporters say the 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.

"We seem to be doing all right under our current circumstances," said Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis.

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.

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. Democratic House Minority Leader Patrick 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 and planned to take a final vote on the right-to-work bill Monday.

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. Republican House Speaker Brian 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. A victory would hand 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.

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  • Union Issues
    There was a time, between 1946 and 1985 that unions produced the most powerful middle class in the world. The goal of large manufacturing companies was to push all high paying manufacturing jobs offshore, solely to defeat the death grip that unions held over state and federal government. I am not sure the RTW Bill will create jobs, but I suggest we allow it to happen, and then evaluate the results in two years. We have real issues in the manufacturing sector, and that Boeing Plant in South Carolina is employing a lot of people. We need our shot at those types of plants.
  • Stayin Strong
    I promise all you non union supporters one thing. No matter the outcome of this bill we will get stronger. More and more kids out of high school are seeing the potential of our apprentice programs and affiliation with Ivy Tech. These kids dont want a minimum wage factory job from little man Mitch. We are organizing future tradesman, volunteering in our communities, and standing with our Democratic leaders. Unions built America, right to work built China, Taiwan, and the other foreign countries that your republican leaders love to invest in.
  • stupidy
    And it they do not pass the referendum, well then all of the politician are stupid especially the Republicans and you wont catch me voting for any of them period;
  • none
    So all you think that letting the Republicans and Democrats to decide about the RTW bill, I don't think so the voters should decides it is their life not the Republican or Democrats. A vote for the bill should be the voters.
  • Unions
    Unions have really out lived their usefulness, every time a union chooses to strike, they never make up those lost wages. Not to mention the others they hurt in the process of that strike, other companies supplying them parts, equipment, and lets not forget the American consumer that has to pay more for those products. I am for fair work pay and practices and our government sees to we are treated fairly. So what are we missing? Higher prices because of unions, companies going out of business because of unions. Families hurt because they no longer have jobs because unions put the company out of business. I vote get rid of the unions....NOW!
  • Right to Work
    Here lies the problem. Right to Work has nothing to do with workers rights...zero.Right to work legislation is backed by big business. They want to have two classes of individuals..have's/have nots. This is an attack on all unions.The same unions who have fought to give you a 40 hour workweek.Being a tradesmen is a good paying job this is true,not a lavish lifestyle like some are led to believe. It is one in which a family can be supported on. China is a right to work country. You can work in any sweatshops for pennies a day.If right to work has its way minimum wage would be the norm.Kids today have options coming out of High School..College,military or a good trade school. Think about your future..Your kids future...At a bare minimum shouldn't they have the same if not better opportunities that you did.
  • signing
    I'll also sign.
  • Democrats
    We all have the "Right to Work" and it seems the the Democrats do not want to or do not want to do the job we put them in office to do. They should be fired.... We all should not vote for these children, if there is a petition to remove them from office I will sign it. If there is a lawyer brave enough to take these children to court as a class action I will sign. I encourage others to do the same.

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