Lawmakers returning to the Statehouse

tomorrow to prep for their 2012 legislative session will likely face hallways

filled with union workers worried about legislation they say could dilute their

power and hurt the state's economy.

House and Senate leaders are not expected to take up the

so-called right-to-work

bills when the GOP-controlled General Assembly gathers for its annual

Organization Day on Tuesday. But they are expected to push the legislation —

which would free workers from paying fees to unions they don't join —

when the session begins in earnest in January.

So the Indiana


is asking its members and other supporters to show up at the

Statehouse to talk to their representatives and senators about why they believe

right-to-work is a bad idea.

"We're calling it an 'all workers lobby day,'"

said Jeff


, a spokesman for the union. "There are no big rallies or

anything like that planned. We just want people to come to the Statehouse and


The legislature's Organization Day is typically a low-key

affair made up of ceremonial speeches, rules votes and other procedural

activities. Occasionally, though, lawmakers have used the day to take votes or

introduce legislation deemed particularly important.

The latter won't be the case this year, said Senate

President Pro Tem David Long

, R-Fort Wayne.

"We're not going to do anything as far as a major

introduction of bills, but we are going to be discussing a little bit of the

agenda from the mic," Long said.

Right-to-work "might be discussed but there won't be

legislation introduced that day" in the Senate, Long said.


Speaker Brian Bosma

, R-Indianapolis, declined through a spokeswoman to be

interviewed Friday.

But House Minority Leader Pat


, D-South Bend, said he received a letter from Bosma indicating no

substantial action will be taken Tuesday. Bauer said that means his caucus has

nothing specific planned either.

"We'll adjust if there are incoming bombs," Bauer


Right-to-work is expected to be one of the most dominant

issues of the 2012 legislative session. The proposals are meant to keep workers

from paying fees to unions they don't join – even if those unions

represent them in salary and benefits negotiations and other areas.

Proponents — mostly business groups and Republicans —

say the legislation would make Indiana more economically competitive and lead

to job growth. Opponents — mostly Democrats and union leaders — say

the legislation would lead to lower wages and fewer benefits for all Hoosiers.

During the 2011 session earlier this year, majority House

Republicans moved a right-to-work bill out of committee. But Democrats

boycotted the session — even fleeing to Illinois — for more than

one month in an attempt to block its passage.

Eventually, the GOP gave up on the bill and sent the topic

to a study committee for action. That group has recommended the General

Assembly take up the issue in January.

Bauer has promised to "respond appropriately" if

Republicans do so. But this week, he wouldn't say just what that action might


"I certainly do think the minority has the right to

defend the people and the process from a majority that becomes

tyrannical," Bauer said. "We have to choose those means that will be

most effective. But right now, I couldn't say what that is without talking to

people and discussing it further."

Bauer suggested that an Occupy

Wall Street-type protest

— which has led thousands of people to camp

out in parks and other public locations across the nation, though few in

Indianapolis — might be one option. So would forums and rallies across

the state. Regardless, Bauer said, the public needs to be involved in some more

expansive way if Democrats are to be successful stopping the legislation.

Republicans have a 60-40 majority in the Indiana House and a

37-13 majority in the Senate. The Senate margin is so wide that Republicans can

produce a quorum for business even if Democrats don't show up at all.

And even if Democrats in the House wanted to boycott

business again, they face substantial obstacles. Most notably, the GOP earlier

this year pushed through a new law that could lead to $1,000-per-day fines for

lawmakers that try to deny the quorum necessary to conduct business.

Meanwhile, union leaders are "preparing for any and all

eventualities," Harris said. "We don't know how things will play out

but we are going to do what we did last year: Encourage our members to come to

the Statehouse and talk to their legislators one on one. That seems to be the

most effective strategy."

Lesley Stedman

Weidenbener is editor at the Franklin College Statehouse News Bureau


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