Thousands gather for union rally at Statehouse

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Thousands of Indiana union members held signs, chanted slogans and cheered speakers outside the Statehouse on Thursday at a rally to protest Republican-backed bills they consider an attack on public education and labor unions.

Authorities said about 5,000 people were gathered by midday when the rally began with songs and prayers.

Statehouse union rally, March 10, 2011Union supporters rallied at the Indiana Statehouse on Thursday. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Nancy Guyott, president of the Indiana AFL-CIO, told the cheering crowd that craftsmen built the Statehouse, and were here again Thursday to reclaim it.

"The working men and women of Indiana have come back to take back the people's house for the people," she said.

Some union shops around the region are closing for the day and bringing busloads of protestors to Indianapolis. Protestors are expected from around the Midwest.

The goal was to create gridlock downtown during the Big Ten men's basketball tournament, according to a flyer promoting the rally obtained by WXIN-TV, Channel 59.

"This will help us jam things up downtown," the flyer says. "If we can take up as many parking spaces as possible, people will complain. This will impact businesses and the Chamber [of Commerce], causing them to tell their friends in the General Assembly to do whatever it takes to keep these people from tying up the town like this."

Indiana House Democrats are boycotting that chamber to derail several Republican proposals, but two joined Senate Democrats at the rally. Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington, said Republicans have gone too far, and that Democrats are acting as the voice of the workers gathered in the cold, windy weather.

"They have called a war on the middle class," she said of Republicans. "This is a battle that we must win!"

A huge banner hung from the Statehouse's west steps read "Hoosiers standing up for the middle class." Some workers wore hard hats and fluorescent yellow work-vests. They held union banners, American flags and signs reading "Stop the war on workers" and "We want the American dream." A giant inflatable "fat cat" wearing a suit and a diamond ring boosted the crowd of protesters.

Retired postal worker Karen Luehrs of Fort Wayne came to the rally to protest several efforts by the Republicans — who control the General Assembly — including bills to restrict teacher collective bargaining and put into state law the current status that state employees cannot collectively bargain.

"It's important for everybody to speak up when things are wrong, and this is wrong," she said.

Republicans say their agenda this year isn't overreaching, and note that people supported them in the November elections when they took control of the Indiana House. Luehrs noted Republicans didn't campaign on proposals such as the so-called "right to work" bill that caused House Democrats to boycott — a proposal that is now off the table.

"There was an agenda that hasn't' been spoken aloud, and one of them is busting unions," she said. "I didn't hear that in the election. I hear that now loud and clear."

Organizers say Thursday's rally could be Indiana's largest in years.


  • It's sad.
    It worries me about the negative statements I see targeted at Union members and Union representatives. I've worked on both sides of the spectrum. Union is definitely the most benefitial force in the workplace. Believe it or not, even non union Americans benefit from the existence of Unions. Without it, companies would be able to go back to the practices of extremely long hours, low wages, no benefits whatsover, and unsafe work environments. Just look back in history and see what workers in all occupations endured before Unions fought and died for American workers rights. Take of few minutes to research it. Yes men and women did literally die fighting for workers rights. Quick examples are the teamsters, Pennsylvania miners, and railroad workers. In addition, a lot of the thoughts I've read here addressing Union regarding benefits, complacency, and strategic malicious disruptive behavior is perfect misinformation. As a Union member it's easy and frustrating to spot, but I can see why non-union Americans believe it's true. The scariest thing is that if Unions are defeated, then, and only then will non-union Americans realize the benefits they received indirectly from Unions. Unfortunately, it will be to late.
  • yessir
    Quick questions, why do you make $35k a yr? do you earn $17.50 an hour? Or, are you only able to get enough work that you are working less than full time? Do you think that more competitive wages and costs would encourage more growth and building? With all due respect I am not sure that someone who has to be taught basic math, writing, safety codes, etc is worth more than $35k.

    Frankly, the public schools could use a good clean out. They are undeniably failing. I believe the last number i saw is that public schools recieve about $13k per child, private schools recieve about $10k per child. never mind incentives, economies of scale, etc. Private schools are generating better out comes with less money.
    There are far too many stories about horrendous teachers that can not be fired. If a non-union employee performed to the same standards as some of these teachers they would be let go in a heart beat. No one deserves absolute protection of their job.

    One quick personal story, I know someone who was a plant manager for Ford. She had to bring in sleeves of golf balls to get the line workers to do their jobs.
    One more quick, a friend of mines uncles have their 30 yrs at chrysler, can not be fired. They literally sit around the factory playing cards and watching tv because the union protects them.
  • Right to work
    Love it or leave it organized labor is a good thing. I'm a union sheet metal worker and an educated one at that. Not only does this proposal hurt union employees it also hurts YOUR children. This bill will take money away from public schools and send it to private shools. It will also relieve schools both public and private from having stringent policies on what level of education(if any) that teachers would be required to have.
    Unions don't just protect the rights of their own workers. Do you honestly think that Subaru or caterpillar would pay a fair wage to employees if it weren't for the threat of unions busting down their doors? And how much do you people think union employees make? I'm Lucky to make 35k a year. Also most union construction trades have a four or five year apprenticeship program. In this program not only do you learn basic reading, writing and math skills you also learn industry and safety standards. If you as a tax payer want an un-educated MORON building a safe and efficient school for your kids than please.....pass this bill. half of the jobs that my contractor gets are from non union companies fucking up so bad the employer kicks them off the job. Just a piece of humble pie for you.
    • ignorance
      Those of you who are so against unions, and like to talk about "you should get paid the market rate", well I suggest you should take this argument little further....let's not prosecute illegal immigrants for wanting to work for less than you. As a matter of fact, in a true spirit of Adam Smith and every American ideal and value, lets open up borders just like it was in the good old days and let anyone do a job for a 'fair, market value rate'....so we can burst your bubble...trust me, you are overpaid. Your job can be done for less somewhere else. I am all for free economy, capitalism to the extreme, but I just can't stand hypocrisy and ignorance. Some workers are protected by unions, other by law, tariffs, etc. Those who think that unions are all bad or all good, are either ignorant or hypocritical.
    • previaling wage
      The unions have created another "trickle up" burden to the tax payer. When a govt construction project is done, the contractor must pay the "prevailing wage". guess what that is? the wage the union commands, never mind that a private contractor would do it for a fraction of the cost.
      Again, the tax payer foots the bill.
    • lisa
      To address your observations:
      What someone campaigns on rarely happens, as evidenced by your elected president. How is Gitmo doing? didn't they just reopen it?
      Pay cuts are not bad, that is a pretty short sighted observation. The reality is that people should earn what they are worth. its the bitter truth, but it is called an economic inefficiency, the world can not function that way. Private sector worker get paid what they are worth, not what their union threatens and deals to get them. If you dont want to pay your attorney $500 an hour, then he is not worth $500 and hour. to you. go find a cheaper attorney. Unions prevent the economy from functioning efficiently, if a company wants to expand into a product, and the union insists that they must pay $30 hr, for example, and that product can be sold profitably. guess what, they are not going to make that product. Inhibiting economic expansion. Now, in a non union situation very likely a bunch of $20 hr jobs would be created, allowing a profit for the company. Now you tell me, what is a better scenario?
    • Drake
      I love that comment. first off, the subarus referenced are better cars, as evidenced by resale value and frankly how many 20 yr old fords are on the road? leave the rust belt and you get a better sense of what people really drive when they are not subsidized by auto manufacturers. Also, those "foreign" car manufacturers are profitable. But, i suppose unions are against anyone but themselves making a profit. Frankly, that is how the big 3 got in trouble, they had to subsidize the sale of their vehicles through 0% financing, rebates, etc to the point where they could not make a profit. They had to sell the cars to show revenue, despite not making a profit. Frankly, if the big 3 built in a reasonable margin, they would never sell.
    • Re: LISA
      FIRST, know that I'm a regular Joe. I, and those like me, account for a vast majority of the workfore. The MAJORITY, as was recently elected into office. Respectfully, you don't get it. You said "they offer the best benefits", referring to unions. You're right, but it's at the cost of the majority. It keeps growing and we're sick and tired of it. It's a monster that's now out in the open and the majority agrees it must be tamed, if not slain. Listen, I've worked hard my entire life. From the age of 10 (although part time then) I have been working. I'm now 50. Everything I have, including my 401k, was paid for by my hard work... not on the backs of other hardworking taxpayers. I'm lucky to have a job where IF I elect to do it, which I do, I can pay for a significant portion of my helathcare. My employer doesn't pay for 80-90% or more of it as with teachers, city & state employees, etc. I get a very low % of my retirement savings match by my employer. I cannot walk away from my job after 20-30 years with a huge pension, again, paid for on the backs of taxpayers... the MAJORITY of people in this country. We're sick of it and it's going to end. It's best if you resign yourself to that fact because it's coming. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but it's coming. Watch for it!
    • For Lisa
      "Everyone will lose if this bill is passed"

      Which bill are you referring to? If it is the Right to Work bill, then your husband just wasted his day as that one has already been taken off the table.

      "Unions are not just about making money, I know alot of our friends and co-workers who are in the union because they offer the best benefits"

      And those benefits don't cost money? It's OK for it to be "about the money", just be honest about it to yourself and everyone else.
    • go home
      What time will all these out-of-state bullies go home???
    • Not just about a single union...
      This is not just about the union workers who build GM and Ford vehicles! There are other unions out there and this rally is for all of them! My husband is a union construction worker and I am darn proud that he is out there today not just supporting his union, but others and also the non union workers who in the long run would also take pay cuts! Everyone will lose if this bill is passed, THAT is why it was not "campaigned" on and this is why the people need to be heard. Unions are not just about making money, I know alot of our friends and co-workers who are in the union because they offer the best benefits and the best training and every one of them are hard workers! AMERICAN WORKERS!!!!
      • Price of Cars
        I need somebody to explain this to me. If the Unions are the cause of why cars are so expensive, why do the Subaru's, Honda's, and Toyota's cost just as much if not more than Ford and GM? They are predominately non union plants. I know that the SIA plant in Lafayette is Non Union. Have you looked at the price of Subaru cars?
      • 5,000? Really?
        More like 2,500. And there were lots of out of state Teamster semis driving endlessly around the statehouse block. I venture that neither the Star nor the IBJ will show a photo of the entire crowd.
      • Unionism
        While they may have good intentions, albeit, very few, Union members are overwhelmed with one consisted blessing - dimwittedness.

        And they call this a "war"? GTHO

        Such a shame........
      • Rally go home, dems come home
        It appears that the majority of posts over the last many days have supported the Republicans and the Right To Work Bill.

        Much like the vote in November supported their ideas and agendas and yet the unions and democrats are trying to keep the majority voice from being heard.

        This is a travesty of Democracy.
        The Democrats are WRONG to do this.
        This is what the majority of people in Indiana wanted.

        Please vote 7 more Republicans into the house in the next election so that the work of our state can go forward how the majority want it.
      • Simple observation
        The real point of this article is that the estimated 25,000 union workers can leave their jobs and the economy not really be affected.

        The reality is that unions force all of us to pay more for goods and service, for the benefit of a few. Union employees earn about 20% more than non union employees, guess who pays for it? the rich? Does a "rich" person send more kids to public school? does he/she buy cars that much more often? does a "rich" person use more public services than a "not-rich" person? Does the mail man come to their house more often? do they put out more garbage cans?
        the answer is no, there for the burden of higher union wages are spread among all service users, regardless of income. Never mind the fact that "they" pay more in income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, school taxes.
        why should the union be protected from market forces?
      • Some people you just can't reach....
        I'm so tired of hearing people say the rich keep getting richer. Let's examine the facts. Over the past 20 years, 95% of all new business start-ups employ fewer than 20 people. These are the people risking it all on the American dream. The save, mortgage their house, and open a coffee shop or restaurant. They may buy a couple of trucks and open an electrical or plumbing business. Perhaps open an automobile service shop, or whatever. These are the people who create a huge number of jobs in this country. And yes, some of them do very well and some might call them rich. More power to them. The challenges are some Dem nutjob decided they now must all pay for employee healthcare or be penalized. All new hiring stops. They fear the worst and hold onto their cash for the inevitable screwing they're about to get rather than hiring more employees, provide new jobs and grow their business. Same goes for companies with more than 20 employees. Then you have the economy slow down. Rather than making decisions to foster new business growth, the Dems increase taxes to raise revenues. You just kicked the guy you've already knocked down with OBama Care. A double whammy. Result... even fewer jobs created. They you have the union thugs and slimeballs. These guys in Wisconsin completely disregarded the desire of the majority of the population who voted a Rep majority into office. What do they do, whine, cry foul and run away? Really? Then when the Reps make a political manuver of their oun, basically outfoxing the Dems, they're now saying someone stole democracy. Are you kidding me? Well, that's enough. My lunch break is over. I'm going back to work so I can pay my obsurd taxes which pay some slimeball teacher (many are good, some are slimeballs) a full pension and give them tenure regardless of how pathetic their performance is. Unions served their purpose in our society one day long ago. Now they're a drain. Jobs are leaving and going to other contries every day because companies cannot afford to pay for healthcare, pensions, high business taxes, etc. When will these people finally wake up and pull their heads out of ... well, let's just say "the sand".
      • middle class
        re: RO
        Should anything be absolutely protected? blanketly protecting the "middle class" is not an admiral goal. Part of the reason the middle is "shrinking" is because people are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. not letting entitlements hold them down.
      • seriously?
        Is being "rich" inherently bad? that is exactly the mentality that will destroy this country. and sooner or later people will realize that 30% of the cost of a ford is to pay for legacy costs of retired union workers. who retired at 48-50 and will continue to recieve full pension for the next 40 -50 years. It is a great gig, work 30 years, get paid for 70.
        • actually
          Their union shipped them to other plants, so really they did not lose employment, they are just moving. The real shame of the deal is that the reason it was shuttered is bc they refused to work for market rates, they wanted inflated union pay.
        • Brilliant Job!
          Unions really served their purpose when they voted to shutter the GM stamping plant. Now all of those people are going to be out of work. Hats off to the union to keep your people employed. Brilliant!
          • Traffic
            Union leaders must think that downtown workers are idiots to believe that we will blame anyone other than union protesters for traffic gridlock. I'm a single, working parent who will probably have to leave MY job early so I can fight my way though traffic to pick up my kid from school and get home to MY middle-class, hard-working lifestyle. Thanks a lot, Unions...
          • .
            To this day, I can not understand that people vote Republican. Republican party is for big business and for the rich. The rich are less than 10% of the population. Yet, they get 50% of the vote. Blame this on voters who have no idea how to vote.
            Republicans will screw the working class any chance they get. Remember this when you vote next time.
            • Big Ten Tournament
              Well I guess union leaders think by creating gridlock in downtown Indianapolis, that they will force the state to cave and they will hold the Big Ten tournament hostage until the state gives in. The only thing that is going to come of this, is that Indianaplis will lose the Big Ten tournament and we will know who to blame - the unions.
            • Dropping Wages?
              Ro, wages haven't actually dropped. As new jobs and people enter the workplace...it skews the wage average downward...since there are more workers with less "seniority". For example, in Oklahoma (a right to work state) when you take this factor into consideration. Wages have actually increased and many more jobs were created since businesses actually wanted to open/expand there.
            • Non union
              I am a non uniion member. I got what I have by being a hard worker and by showing up to work daily doing my job and not complaining. I make more money and have better benefits than most union workers. Do I always like what I have to do at work no,but if I did it wouldn't be work. Unions are why I have to pay $30,000 for a $15,000 car. If you are not in a hazerdous job than you don't need a union. Bust the Unions before they bust Us
            • Reality
              It is amazing how many people jump on a band wagon. I would bet that 90% of the people protesting this bill have even read a part of the actual bill. I see nothing wrong with limiting the unions to wages and compensation and not how the district runs it's schools. That is why they (school board) are elected
            • Educate
              I sure wish people would get better educated. This fight is not for just the Union but all middle class people, which is shrinking every day. If it were not for the Unions wages would be lower than ever. Since the 60's middle class wages have actually dropped considering inflation yet the rich have only gotten richer, far surpassing inflation. And Republicans hope to continue this trend.
              • Real Protest
                The real protest happened back in November, and the majority spoke.
              • What Time
                What time will this begin?

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