IBJOpinion

KRULL: Right to work and promises to be kept

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John KrullWhen Indiana Republicans started their push to ram so-called right-to-work legislation through the General Assembly nearly three years ago, they said the measure would rain blessings down on the Hoosier state.

The GOP stalwarts in the House and Senate said right to work would liberate both employers and the employed, creating a new gold rush of jobs and economic growth in the state. Over the fierce objections of Democrats and organized labor—union members came by the thousands to the Statehouse to protest—Republicans pushed the measure through.

In reality, the fight over right to work had little to do with jobs, economic growth or anything that in any way would have a positive effect on the state’s well-being.

The fight was about sandlot politics at the most immature level. The measure made it illegal to require employees to pay fees to a union to which they do not belong, even if they benefit from the negotiations and other services that union provides.

In short, it was a union-busting maneuver—one designed to strip organized labor, which generally supports Democrats, of funds.

Perhaps that’s why right to work’s backers began distancing themselves from their more extravagant promises almost as soon as the bill became law.

Almost as soon as then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, had signed the measure into law, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce—which had orchestrated the symphony heralding the economic miracle that would be right to work when the bill was before the Legislature—sent out an op-ed piece trying to lower expectations.

Right to work wasn’t a panacea, the chamber said, and Hoosiers shouldn’t get their hopes up.

Republicans fell into line and issued similar statements. That raised the question of why Republicans pushed the state through the most divisive battle in modern memory if Hoosiers gained nothing from the outcome.

Now, a ruling from a Lake County judge likely will raise that question all over again.

Late last month, Lake Superior Judge John Sedia—a Daniels appointee—ruled that right to work violates the Indiana Constitution because it requires unions to provide services without being paid for them. That violates a section of the Constitution that reads “no person’s particular services shall be demanded, without just compensation.”

The judge’s ruling provoked a strangely defensive response from state Republicans. Right after the judge ruled, Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, issued a statement that took issue with Sedia’s reasoning.

Long said federal law should prevail when it comes to right to work—an odd argument for a state legislator to make, particularly one who has called for a national constitutional convention to curb what the senator has called federal overreaching.

Long also offered what amounted to a mini legal brief about the ways Sedia had to be wrong that could be boiled down to one sentiment: The judge has to be wrong, because we Republicans will look pretty foolish if he isn’t.

Long is a smart guy—smart enough to know that arguments in court, rather than press releases, determine who wins or loses a legal battle. The fact that he felt compelled to issue a statement in support of the plausibility of right to work indicates some sensitivity to the wounds that fight produced that still have not healed.

We Hoosiers now are nearly three years into the right-to-work era. It’s been almost a year and a half since Republicans and the chamber “won” and the bill became law.

The fight in the sandlot continues.

The promised jobs and economic growth have yet to arrive.•

__________

Krull directs Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, hosts the weekly news program “No Limits” on WFYI-FM 90.1, and is executive director of The Statehouse File. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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  1. In reality, Lilly is maintaining profit by cutting costs such as Indiana/US citizen IT workers by a significant amount with their Tata Indian consulting connection, increasing Indian H1B's at Lillys Indiana locations significantly and offshoring to India high paying Indiana jobs to cut costs and increase profit at the expense of U.S. workers.

  2. I think perhaps there is legal precedence here in that the laws were intended for family farms, not pig processing plants on a huge scale. There has to be a way to squash this judges judgment and overrule her dumb judgement. Perhaps she should be required to live in one of those neighbors houses for a month next to the farm to see how she likes it. She is there to protect the people, not the corporations.

  3. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/03-111.htm Corporate farms are not farms, they are indeed factories on a huge scale. The amount of waste and unhealthy smells are environmentally unsafe. If they want to do this, they should be forced to buy a boundary around their farm at a premium price to the homeowners and landowners that have to eat, sleep, and live in a cesspool of pig smells. Imagine living in a house that smells like a restroom all the time. Does the state really believe they should take the side of these corporate farms and not protect Indiana citizens. Perhaps justifiable they should force all the management of the farms to live on the farm itself and not live probably far away from there. Would be interesting to investigate the housing locations of those working at and managing the corporate farms.

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