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Indiana panel recommends right-to-work legislation

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A committee of Indiana lawmakers voted along party lines Wednesday to put legislation that would prohibit workers from being required to pay union representation fees on the plate for the General Assembly's 2012 session.

The Legislature's Interim Study Committee on Employment voted 5-4 to advance the "right-to-work" proposal. Republicans in both chambers of the General Assembly have said they are ready to file proposals.

The divisive issue that's expected to dominate much of the 2012 General Assembly's debate sparked a five-week walkout by House Democrats during this year's session. But new fines put in place by the Republican-led Legislature make another walkout much less likely.

Indiana's unions spent much of the summer protesting the "right-to-work" measure at the study committee's hearings and packed its final hearing Wednesday.

"I feel certain the testimony we heard indicated that 'right to work' is a good tool for economic development and something we should consider," said Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, chairman of the study committee and author of the report approved Wednesday.

House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, issued a cryptic response shortly after the vote: "If they choose to continue these radical attacks on working Hoosier families, Indiana House Democrats will reserve the right to respond appropriately."

Bauer spokesman John Schorg did not say what Bauer meant when he said "respond appropriately" or whether that meant Democrats would walk out again next year. A request seeking comment from Bauer was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Indiana State AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said Wednesday's vote was expected but added that there is no guarantee the measure makes it into law next year.

"I'm not sure I accept the premise that the end of the story is written in terms of what they're going to do," she said of Republicans' plans.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has not said whether he would support the "right to work" in the upcoming session although he has spoken favorably of it before. He writes in his recently released book "Keeping the Republic" that he did not want to push the issue this year not because he opposed it but because it would have sparked a political wildfire and derailed his 2011 legislative agenda.

When Republican lawmakers did push the measure, it sparked the House Democratic walkout to Illinois, although Daniels' agenda ultimately survived the battle.

"We have lived through another case in which demands for unachievable perfection — the right-to-work bill had zero chance of passage through both our Houses in 2011 — risked wrecking real and enormous potential progress," Daniels wrote in a sharply-worded passage aimed at his fellow Republicans.

Daniels has not said yet whether it is a fight worth picking next year. Spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said the governor is reviewing the report and conferring with more people before making a decision.

Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, said Wednesday he plans to file legislation in the Senate with Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury. Although Daniels has not actively campaigned for "right to work" Walker called him a "silent supporter." He pointed to testimony from Daniels' then-Economic Development Secretary Mitch Roob in favor of "right to work" earlier in the summer.

Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, has said he plans to file "right-to-work" legislation in the House.

The last bout of debate from the committee forced a strange alignment of Democrats using Daniels' positive assessments of the state economy to make their point that "right to work" is not needed. Republican members meanwhile said the state's high jobless rate proved an urgent need for "right to work."

"Indiana, by our own governor's admission, is doing a great job," said Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte. Although the arguments made little difference in the final outcome.

Democrats on the panel tried to rewrite the report through a handful of maneuvers during the hearing but were unsuccessful. Following the vote, Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, said Democrats would issue their own report separately.

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  • Uncle Steve
    I think the Democrats should put their own ammendments to this bill,The choice should be equal for both sides of the workers rights.You have more workers that want to be able to work in a Union shop. so it should be just as easy to say yes to union dues weather or not the company has a Union or not it needs to be fair for all.So this would bring Unions into places that don't currently have them, even if it's only a few employees they should have the same ease of choice,yes or no .
  • RTW
    i hope that everybody understands who built america and what it stood for.big time corporations have gotten tax breaks where they dont even pay taxes,so why should the workers pay.hell we are all struggling to make ends meet and live a life.
  • Reminder
    I personally hope Right to Work passes but the most important piece of this article and many more to come hopefully is to continue to remind the people of Indiana that our Legislature has several Reps that walked out on their responsibility last year and don't deserve the job. Lets VOTE THEM OUT - so they can move to IL permanently!
  • Pyramid Scheme
    Blah, Blah, Blah.... the unions in this country have shot themselves in the foot. Yes, they may have won the battle in many cases, but they lost the war. Their jobs were moved elsewhere because companies couldn't afford the protection money anymore. The real issue now is that all these "fat cat" lazy babyboomer "ready to retire" union members know that their pensions are at risk if union membership keeps declining. Well, too bad. I'm 33, and I don't care about your right to a Harley, a motor home, and your union pension. I care about a job...now...for me. Your generation chased them all away. Right to work will help bring them back.
  • Union membrship
    passing right to work legislation will accelerate the divide between the wealthy and the working class, companies that wont locate here due to indiana not being right to work dont need to set up their sweatshops here anyhow we dont need them. As for existing union shops if someone comes to works and "choses" not to join the Union just make their job so bad they move on and leave the work to the union workers
  • Union not responsible for outsourcing
    "About time", improved and less-expensive shipping options combined with very low-cost labor abroad is what "sent many jobs outside our borders." This is called the "free market." Unions ensured living wages for millions of hard working men and women for decades. Would you like to work for $2 an hour? This is what our work force must compete against when the majority of our goods are imported.
  • Right to Work?
    I already have a "right to work".... I need a living wage FROM work and union membership guaranteed that to me, my family, and millions of others. Those who lambast Unions are working against their own interests. It doesn't take a genius to see that as Union membership has declined wages have too. Except of course for the top 1%.
  • Don
    Well of course Don, you can use the American auto industry as a model of how the unions have basically destroyed one of the greatest businesses in the world. My take on it is if you don't like the wage - find another job.
  • Kool-Aide
    Stop drinking the Kool-Aide, Dan! The Labor Union movement has done a lot to ensure a strong middle class standard of living. Proposing right to work measures only serve to break that standard-watch, this is the tipping point. We're aleady seeing it in several other states around us. Here's what gets me-as a middle class wage earner and union member, I watch as the 1% and the corporations and CEOs continue to make enormous profits (in some cases, bosses make over 400 times what their employees make in comparison.) Is this right? I pay payroll tax, they don't. Is this right? I feel like the middle class is slowly becoming the working poor. Yes, I agree, labor unions will still exist-but doing this takes away a little bit more from a standard that used to be respected.
  • It's not Union Busting
    I respectfully disagree that passing right to work legislation is union busting. 22 states are right to work states and unions are organized and operate in every single one of them.

    All this propsed legislation does is to provide that a worker cannot be forced, against his or her will, to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The employee can still voluntarily pay the dues.

    Nothing about the proposed legislation will make labor unions go away.



  • right to work
    Why, does our law makers, owe favors to companies and contractors? Find another horse to beat.
  • Unions
    Depending on the negotiating team is how good of a contract you get. The company I retired from have a contract that both sides can live with. It would be nice if we could get a little more money in raises, but we didn't lose anything, and we have always had great benefits. I had 5 weeks paid vacation, 12 paid holidays, 2 extra days paid, 11 days unpaid (call in 30 min. before start time), 6 paid sick days. The best insurance you could ask for. Company is still making it's millions in profits, and my wage is good enough to live on.($16.85 per hour)
  • Why not
    There once was a place for unions, but it has made our society very lazy and sent many jobs outside our borders. Sad, but true.
    • Union Busting
      Indiana winning the race to the Dark Ages.

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