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Indiana Senate sends right-to-work bill to Daniels

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The Indiana's Senate passed right-to-work legislation Wednesday morning by a vote of 28-22, placing the state on the verge of becoming the Rust Belt's first to enact the contentious labor law.

The bill heads to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has said he'll sign it.

As the streets of Indianapolis bustled with Super Bowl festivities, hundreds of union members gathered at the Statehouse to protest the legislation and planned a downtown rally that they hoped would point a national spotlight on what is happening in the state.

Indiana would be the first state in a decade to enact a right-to-work law prohibiting labor contracts that require workers to pay union fees. The Indiana victory is expected to embolden national right-to-work advocates, who have unsuccessfully pushed the measure in other states following a Republican sweep of statehouses in 2010. But few right-to-work states boast Indiana's union clout, borne of a long manufacturing legacy.

The vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, and Daniels' anticipated signature, will close one chapter in a contentious debate that sparked a five-week walkout by outnumbered House Democrats last year and saw them stage numerous boycotts this session, delaying action on other bills and threatening to spill over into the Feb. 5 Super Bowl.

But union protesters say they aren't ready to be silenced.

Chuck Wheeldon of Lafayette, wearing a Super Bowl 2012 baseball cap, said he was glad Indianapolis was hosting the game in a stadium that many of his fellow carpenters union members helped build.

"I don't want to ruin it for anybody, but I definitely want everybody around the rest of the country to know what the heck is going on," Wheeldon said. "If we cause a little ruckus, so be it."

Daniels said this week that it would be a "colossal mistake" for union protesters to disrupt Super Bowl festivities and that any such move could backfire on them.

Supporters say right-to-work helps create a pro-business climate that attracts employers and increases jobs. Opponents say it leads to lower wages and poorer quality jobs, and they accused Republicans of rushing the bill through to avoid disrupting the Super Bowl.

But with Republicans outnumbering Democrats in the House and Senate, and House Democrats facing stiff fines if they walked out for a lengthy period as they did last year, opponents have had few opportunities to stop the bill.

"We always knew this was going to be an uphill battle," said Indiana AFL-CIO spokesman Jeff Harris.

About 75 marchers weaved through packed crowds in the Super Bowl Village on Saturday to protest the measure, chanting "Occupy the Super Bowl" and carrying signs that read "Fight the Lie" and "Workers United Will Prevail."

Harris said protesters plan to hand out leaflets before Sunday's game.

Experts say many factors influence states' economies and that it's nearly impossible to isolate the impact of right-to-work. For major industries, access to supplies, infrastructure, key markets and a skilled work force are key factors, according to business recruitment specialists. For a state's workers, the impact of right-to-work is limited because only about 7 percent of private sector employees are unionized. Over the years, job growth has surged in states with, and without, right-to-work laws.

Business organizations and Daniels have pushed for the bill, claiming that many companies looking to expand won't consider Indiana because it isn't among the 22 states — mostly in the South and West — with a right-to-work law.

John Sampson, president of the Fort Wayne-based Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, said Tuesday the economic development group would be making sure word gets out among its prospects about the change.

"We know some of the companies that turned us down overtly because we're not a right-to-work state, and we'll certainly go back to them and make pitches," Sampson said.

Business leaders and state economic development officials already have started talking about raising money for a "strong coordinated effort" to promote the state's changing status, said Indiana Chamber of Commerce president Kevin Brinegar.

Part of that work will begin this weekend as Daniels said he'll use activities surrounding the Super Bowl in Indianapolis to sell the state to visiting business executives. Private jets landing in the Indianapolis area also will leave with materials about Indiana's business climate, he said.

"We've always seen this as a great opportunity to do our most important job, which is to try to bring more employment here," Daniels told reporters this week.

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  • The real story
    Under this now-law, unions will have to spend their time and money to represent those workers--the nature of whose jobs fall under trade union supervision--who have not paid the unions to represent them. As a practical matter, this will weaken the unions' bargaining position to get ALL workers the compensation they deserve. Wages and benefits will go down for both non-union and union dues-payers. Eventually jobs that previously were unionized will go non-union, and wages will be depressed even further as well as the quality of worker willing to do the job for such bad wages. Everyone will suffer. And the bad part is, there is absolutely no guarantee that this measure will result in more jobs coming to the state. Can you say "downward spiral"?
  • let's move on...
    Wow! - All this noise during the past two legislative sessions over a bill that merely gives worker's the personal freedom to choose whether or not they want part of their paycheck withdrawn and "direct deposited" with the Indiana State Democratic Party!!!... if the Dem's (Pat Bauer et al.) and union bosses had any understanding of, or interest in, what drives a democracy (and/or an economy), this bill would have been heard, passed, and signed into law in about two days! ...And, to those who want to attempt (unsuccessfully) to tarnish the great opportunity we have this week to showcase Indianapolis as the great city we are, with more demonstrations of stupidity, please don't expect to be called for your services when the next stadium is built!
  • could this have waited a week
    It may just be me, but could this have waited a week until after the SB? Or are we hoping these guys will see the girls get drunk and have a good time, meanwhile we have every law enforcement agency on high alert. we will see.
    I would also like to comment that the republicans are great spin doctors, giving people the right to choose on one argument (RTW) take it away in the other argument (smoking ban). leave the people alone if they want to fail, join a union, go to the hoochie coochie bar have at it.
  • Typical...
    "It's Republican season" -- some things never change.

    A vast majority of people, including many Democrats, have come to dislike unions because of their well earned and historical reputation violence and intimidation, either real or just threatened.

    Inane blather like the above remark does NOTHING to help the union cause. Whether you know it or not, you are reinforcing a stereotype which turns well-reasoned citizens against you.
  • This is what it means!
    To the people who think we shouldn't be down there because of the Super Bowl shows they don't know what this is all about it is affecting peoples careers,lively hood,your kids future. And the politicians political gain,which is much more important then the SUPER Bowl!!!
  • It's about freedom
    As a former union member and political independent, I'm disgusted, but not surprised by the rhetoric against the ‘Right to Work’ legislation. All this legislation does is allow an individual to choose to join or not join a union and pay dues, a part of which are blindly donated to democrats, a party with the worst record of job creation. You’re like sheep to slaughter so blindly supporting democrats. You need to realize there are good public servants in both parties. What happened to freedom, liberty, an individuals right to choose. Face it unions, if you were really worthwhile you’d earn your members dues and not have to resort to forcing individuals to join.
  • part of the elite
    Unions and Republicans are like Step brothers. They both make tons of money because of who they know and where they come from and not from how hard they work. Thus, they constantly fight while everyone around them suffers.
  • Amazing Right To Work Map
    A Right to Work law secures the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union.

    Check this map out.

    http://www.nrtw.org/rtws.htm
  • At Last
    Mitch you are the man, you have attempted to make Indiana equal to Mississippi, and Alabama. You have been successful in per capita income, education, and workers rights. Oh good, your planned to take from the poor and reward the rich. Your long term plans for this state and the people in 7 short years will be felt for a long time. History will show this is a bleak period for our state. I guess the good news is you have been consistant. Your plans for IPL, Lilly, the nation and omb, have resulted in disaster. The good news is your ego, and comb over will last forever.
  • not what it means
    Managements don't care about you, they care about the BOTTOM LINE, The more they take from you the better the bottom line is.
  • not what it means
    Read the fine print people! The "Right to work" isn't for the people, it's a deceiving slogan. Who will protect the worker? NO ONE

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