State commerce chief backs right-to-work law

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Indiana lawmakers debated right to work legislation Tuesday that sparked a five-week walkout by House Democrats earlier this year and could set a contentious tone when lawmakers reconvene in January.

Commerce Secretary Mitch Roob opened a daylong hearing, saying that he supported right to work legislation because it makes it easier to bring manufacturing jobs to Indiana. But Roob's boss, Gov. Mitch Daniels, has been circumspect on whether he would support a bill.

"We do miss opportunities because we are not a right to work state," Roob told members of the General Assembly's Interim Study Committee on Employment.

House Democrats left the state for five weeks this year to block Republicans from obtaining a quorum and thereby advancing the measure. The move was similar to that of Wisconsin Senate Democrats who staged a walkout to stifle Republican Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to cut collective bargaining rights.

Shortly after House Democrats returned to Indiana in March, Republicans approved new fines that would attempt to block future walkouts.

The proposal would allow workers to be protected under labor contracts without having to pay union dues. Twenty-two states have approved right to work legislation, most of them more than 50 years ago.

Democrats on the panel blasted the "right to work" proposal Tuesday saying it would depress wages for Hoosier workers and do nothing to bring more jobs to the state.

Although Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, said Tuesday it would be "premature" to consider another walkout until the proposal is actually drafted and submitted before lawmakers, who return for the 2012 session in January.

House Republican leaders have not yet said whether they will bring the measure up again for consideration next year.

During the 2011 legislative session Daniels asked lawmakers not work on the measure specifically because it would have sucked the air out of the room for other proposals.

"I wasn't in favor of its consideration of it in this last legislative session, as you all know, because we hadn't had this kind of an open process and airing of all the issues," Daniels said. "So let's have that airing and then we'll have something more definitive to say."

Many businesses will dismiss locating in a state out of hand, if it does not have right to work laws, said Katie Culp, senior vice president of the Indianapolis-based Cassidy Turley, who runs the firm's economic development program. Culp said, however, she could not name any of those specific businesses because of confidential negotiations.

The average annual earnings of workers in states with right to work laws are $1,500 less than what workers make on average in other states, said Gordon Lafer, a professor at University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center. Consumer spending also decreases greatly in those states, he said.

"That's what it supposed to do. It's supposed to attract out-of-state manufacturers by lowering wages and benefits," Lafer said.

But businesses tend to make decisions on where to locate less on union rules than on more important measures like transportation infrastructure and workforce education, he said.


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  1. Why not take some time to do some research before traveling to that Indiana town or city, and find the ones that are no smoking either inside, or have a patio? People like yourself are just being selfish, and unnecessarily trying to take away all indoor venues that smokers can enjoy themselves at. Last time I checked, it is still a free country, and businesses do respond to market pressure and will ban smoking, if there's enough demand by customers for it(i.e. Linebacker Lounge in South Bend, and Rack and Helen's in New Haven, IN, outside of Fort Wayne). Indiana law already unnecessarily forced restaurants with a bar area to be no smoking, so why not support those restaurants that were forced to ban smoking against their will? Also, I'm always surprised at the number of bars that chose to ban smoking on their own, in non-ban parts of Indiana I'll sometimes travel into. Whiting, IN(just southeast of Chicago) has at least a few bars that went no smoking on their own accord, and despite no selfish government ban forcing those bars to make that move against their will! I'd much rather have a balance of both smoking and non-smoking bars, rather than a complete bar smoking ban that'll only force more bars to close their doors. And besides IMO, there are much worser things to worry about, than cigarette smoke inside a bar. If you feel a bar is too smoky, then simply walk out and take your business to a different bar!

  2. As other states are realizing the harm in jailing offenders of marijuana...Indiana steps backwards into the script of Reefer Madness. Well...you guys voted for your Gov...up to you to vote him out. Signed, Citizen of Florida...the next state to have medical marijuana.

  3. It's empowering for this niche community to know that they have an advocate on their side in case things go awry. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrst9VXVKfE

  4. Apparently the settlement over Angie's List "bundling" charges hasn't stopped the practice! My membership is up for renewal, and I'm on my third email trying to get a "basic" membership rather than the "bundled" version they're trying to charge me for. Frustrating!!

  5. Well....as a vendor to both of these builders I guess I have the right to comment. Davis closed his doors with integrity.He paid me every penny he owed me. Estridge,STILL owes me thousands and thousands of dollars. The last few years of my life have been spent working 2 jobs, paying off the suppliers I used to work on Estridge jobs and just struggling to survive. Shame on you Paul...and shame on you IBJ! Maybe you should have contacted the hundreds of vendors that Paul stiffed. I'm sure your "rises from the ashes" spin on reporting would have contained true stories of real people who have struggled to find work and pay of their debts (something that Paul didn't even attempt to do).