GOP makes a move on "Right-to-Work" bill 

Image via Wikimedia Commons
  • Image via Wikimedia Commons

Hard to believe, given the labor protests still raging in Wisconsin, but the Indiana House of Representatives is pushing forward its controversial "Right-to-Work" legislation.

A look at the House committee schedule shows that the bill, HB 1468, is scheduled for Monday morning at 9 am.

So-called "Right-to-Work" (RTW) legislation would effectively eviscerate unions' collective bargaining power by guaranteeing an employee's right not to join a union, and would render illegal any contracts or agreements between unions and employers requiring employees to join a union as a condition of employment.

Supporters and opponents of the bill are split along fairly predictable lines. The former say busting the unions will encourage job growth. The latter say the lack of bargaining power would lead to lower wages, poorer benefits and diminished working conditions. (Read more about the law, and the arguments for and against this week's cover story about Right to Work)

HB 1468 is a slightly different version of HB 1028, examined in our previous coverage — primarily in that it adds construction workers to a short list of exemptions, which also includes employees of the Federal government, and employees subject to the federal Railway Labor Act.

Which is hardly a surprise, given the big money associated with the construction industry.

The bill still has a long way to go. It would have to pass a committee vote, a full House vote and make it to the Senate by Feb. 28. Still, it seems an opposition is already mobilizing. Central Indiana Jobs with Justice, a union coalition, is gathering demonstrators for Monday's hearing at the Statehouse, from 9 am to 5 pm, room 156A, in the basement.

Close observers, legislators, and off-the-record sources who have an express interest in stoking flames against RTW have told me for a few months that this bill didn't stand much of a chance. Gov. Mitch Daniels stated publicly he'd rather avoid a fight over this one before it really got out of the gate.

Thus far, their predictions have proven correct. House versions of the bill have sat in committee, with no indication of movement toward hearings or votes. One would think the tens of thousands demonstrating in Wisconsin this week — and the resulting breakdown of the legislative process — would make this even more of a third rail for state legislators than it already was. And for a governor who may have presidential aspirations.

It likely has. Which is what makes any movement on this bill so surprising.

Then again maybe not. There's an interesting thesis bouncing around the news talk shows that says these types of bills — in states around the country — are more about long-view politics than they are about creating jobs or fixing deficits.

The idea is that, since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which granted corporations free reign to make political campaign contributions (and, thereby, basically own the results and the politicians who benefit), labor unions are the only remaining campaign contributors and organizers with major clout for Democrats. Republican governors like Scott Walker, in Wisconsin, and Republican-dominated legislatures, like the one here in Indiana, are being encouraged to break the backs of unions for good, thereby ensuring even more Republican dominance in coming elections than Citizens United already gave them.

That's the thinking anyway. It makes sense to me, and I don't think one has to wear his tin foil helmet to see that it's just smart strategy. Would Democrats do they same if they could? Of course they would.

Still, that doesn't make it right. And one has to applaud Mitch Daniels here, actually, for walking his walk thus far. Mitch is a budget guy, or at least he says he is. If these RTW, union-busting bills are really about politics, not budgets, it's good to see Daniels prefers not to waste his time, or his political capital.

With a Senate committee having just this week passed HB 590, Carmel Sen. Mike Delph's draconian immigration and English-first bill, Indiana is already turning into a second Arizona. Keep pushing and Indiana Republicans are sure to turn Indiana into a second Wisconsin as well.

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