State GOP leaders weigh banning required union dues

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Republicans in the Indiana House have filed bills that would prevent workers from being required to pay union dues, an issue considered so divisive that Gov. Mitch Daniels would prefer to avoid it.

The so-called right-to-work legislation could move forward anyway since Republicans have full control of the General Assembly after winning a House majority in last month's election. The bills would prohibit companies from making union dues or membership a requirement of employment.

House Labor Committee Chairman Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville, said he didn't yet know whether the bills would get public hearings and a vote during the legislative session that starts next week.

"I would imagine there will be some (Republican) caucus talk about this before we would get too far with it," Gutwein told The Courier-Journal of Louisville. "Personally I like the idea. It seems to work and seems like it's a plus for those states that have it. But we'll have to see."

But Daniels, also a Republican, has told legislative leaders that it would be better to leave the issue alone, even though he believes the proposal has merit. Daniels noted neither he nor the House Republican caucus campaigned on the proposed change.

"It's a very legitimate issue," Daniels said. "But I think it's too big to do without having discussed it out in the open first. And I'll also say I think it would have the potential — just tactically — to possibly reduce or wreck the chances for education reform and local government reform and criminal justice reform and the things we have a wonderful chance to do."

Democratic lawmakers and labor unions are certain to fight the legislation, which is similar to laws in 22 states.

"All the evidence shows (right-to-work laws) are extremely discriminatory for minorities and women. They drive down wages," said Rep. Dennis Tyler, D-Muncie, who serves on the House Labor Committee. "I think that our caucus will react accordingly and be heavily opposed to it."

Many Republicans remember labor unions' outrage in 1995, when the Legislature tried to change the state's prevailing wage law in a way that threatened to reduce pay for workers in public construction projects.

More than 20,000 union members attended a Statehouse protest, and the issue gave Democrats a boost that helped them win a House majority in the next election.

The AFL-CIO maintains the average worker in a right-to-work state makes about $5,333 a year less than workers in other states.

"There are many fewer people with health benefits, many fewer people with pensions, and other problems that would suck money out of our local economy," Indiana AFL-CIO President Susan Guyott said. "It would have a huge impact on our overall economy."

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce supports the proposal, saying it "would remove a significant impediment to investment and job creation" and could help distinguish Indiana from neighboring states, none of which have a similar law.

Daniels said he believes it's a valid idea, even if he doesn't think it's appropriate to pursue it now.

The lack of a right-to-work law "does hold us back economically," he said. "There is no doubt about it. We have an incredible win record in terms of the competitive transactions where businesses are competing states off against each other. But we also know a very large number — perhaps as many as a quarter — of the deals we don't get a shot at are for just for this reason."

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said his caucus has no definitive plans for how to proceed with the issue.

"I think it's one of the handful of issues that have the potential to derail some of the most critical matters" lawmakers are facing, Bosma said. "Having said that, there is no doubt there are some benefits to the proposal economically, and so we'll have to see how the discussion proceeds."


  • If unions are so good, why compel membership?
    The simple fact of the matter is that when unions are a good deal, people will join them voluntarily. When they are a bad deal--when the unions take too much for the benefits they provide--they won't get takers.

    The right to work is exactly that: the right to negotiate your own deal with the employer, if you so choose. The ability of unions to utilize the power of the State to MANDATE membership is anti-free market and anti-liberty. It is organized crime, and like all open organized crime, requires the protection of the government.

    Tactically, Daniels may have a point. But strategically and ethically this has to happen at some point.
  • Look At It Now
    Raised in Anderson during its heyday, I saw the UAW ruin my hometown. But -- the UAW not only killed the auto industry. By nurturing mediocrity, belittling higher education as unnessary and maintaining solidarity with its brethren in the teachers union, the UAW helped speed along the demise of the school system. It has been among the worst in the state for years. Indiana as a whole is well behind most of the other forty nine states.

    So maybe Mitch has a point. Maybe we need to tackle education reform first, where the union strangle hold isn't likely to be broken anytime soon. Employers know that to attract the best employees, you have to locate in a place where their children can get a top notch education.

    Still, it's hard not to feel sorry for all of those folks who surrendered their money to the UAW and lost everything anyway.
  • Say what?
    Some people actually choose NOT to be union as you have choosen to be in a union - that would make it "right to work" and "free choice in America". Since Unions use the card check agreement, and mis-represent themselves to the average worker, they do not tell them that there must be a simple majority to vote the union in - meaning not all employees have to agree to it. The union then starts taking out dues/raising dues. Go to the website www.unionfacts.com and read about organized crime and corruption within the unions. Remember - unions are a "for profit" group and the way they make money is through workers paychecks. You must either be a union leader or a lazy worker since you are in favor of them.
  • YES!!!!!!
    YESYESYESYESYES! PLEASE get this acted on ASAP! Indiana is WAY behind the times on this issue - EVERY STATE that has adopted right-to-work has seen an INCREASE in employment. As an aside, I have to wonder about a group of folks who DELIBERATELY voted themselves out of a job (UAW - GM stamping plant)... It's past time for us non-union workers to have to yell "BECK" every time we turn around!
    Really!!! Why should state lawmakers waist our tax dollars fighting for what has proven to be less wages, which means less taxes for Indiana, less economic growth for Indiana and less benefits to the employee. Sounds like where moving backwards, not forward.

    We still live in America, where we have the right to "choose" what is best for our family. What works for me, may not work for you. Dont take my union away, I chose to be union, lets keep it that way.
  • Unions only Good for Union Leaders
    The Union I was forced to join when I came to Indiana raised my dues every year, negotiated a 25% pay cut, a 20% cut in paid vacation, cut two paid holidays, and to add insult to injury negotiated away my company pension plan. They then offered a Union Pension Plan that would have sucked more of my pay check. NO One working for the Union took a pay cut. They still have jobs-I don't because they negotiated a lay-off plan too boot. It's time to let people have the right to work instead of the Unions having the right to usurp wages under the right to hire atmosphere prevelent in Indiana. Please Pass this law!
  • Please pass this law
    How there is a union hall left standing anywhere in this state, I cannot comprehend. Come on, Mitch. You're a lame duck. Come out swinging in favor of this law. Without it, jobs will continue to go to the 22 states that force unions to make their case and stand or fall on their own merits. The destruction of Anderson and Kokomo, the closing of the Chevy plant in Indianapolis, all can be laid at the feet of the UAW.

    If unions are such a great deal, why should employees be forced to support them?

    Make them accountable.

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