The state's Republican-controlled House of Representatives has cleared the way for Indiana to become the first right-to-work state in the traditionally union-heavy Rust Belt.
The House voted 54-44 Wednesday to make Indiana the nation's 23rd right-to-work state after Democrats ended a periodic boycott which had stalled the measure for weeks. The right-to-work proposal would ban unions from collecting mandatory fees from workers.
Indiana would mark the first win in 10 years for national right-to-work advocates who have pushed unsuccessfully for the measure in other states.
The measure is expected to face little opposition in the Republican-controlled Indiana Senate and could reach Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels' desk shortly before the Feb. 5 Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
Republicans have struggled with similar anti-union measures in other Rust-Belt states like Wisconsin and Ohio where they have faced a massive backlash. Ohio voters overturned Gov. John Kasich's labor measures last November and union activists delivered roughly 1 million petitions last week in an effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Hundreds of union protesters packed the halls of the Statehouse again Wednesday, chanting "Kill the Bill!" and cheering Democrats who had stalled the measure since the start of the year.
"We did better than anybody ever expected," House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer told The Associated Press before debate began on the issue, adding that outnumbered Democrats fought the best they could in the divisive labor battle.
Republicans foreshadowed their strong showing Monday when they shot down a series of Democratic amendments to the measure in strict party-line votes. Democrats boycotted again for an eighth day
Republicans handily outnumber Democrats in the House 60-40, but Democrats have just enough members to deny the Republicans the 67 votes needed to achieve a quorum and conduct any business. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma began fining boycotting Democrats $1,000 a day last week, but a Marion County judge has blocked the collection of those fines.
The measure now moves to the Indiana Senate, which approved its own right-to-work measure earlier in the week. Gov. Mitch Daniels has promoted the bill and said he would sign it into law.