Democrats open Indiana House chamber doors for right-to-work debate from The Statehouse File on Vimeo.

By Samm Quinn

The House passed a right-to-work

bill

54-43 Wednesday after a chaotic debate that included union workers

yelling through the chamber's door to try to drown out Republicans who support

the legislation.

House Bill 1001 will now moves to the

Senate, which has already passed an identical bill. Democrats in the Senate don't

have the numbers to stop it.

The House debate took place after

Democrats returned to the floor Wednesday following a two-day boycott over the

contentious right-to-work bill and held open the chamber's door as Republicans

tried to debate the controversial legislation.

House

Minority Leader Pat Bauer

, D-South Bend, said he was proud of the fight his

caucus put forth to try and stop passage of right to work, which would free

workers from paying fees to unions they don't join, even if those groups

represent them.

Bauer said he was proud too of the

Democrats members who opened the door so the protestors could be hear.

"Thank god for the courage of two

of our members for opening the door," he said. "That's a good thing."

The door is never kept open when

lawmakers are in session, but Democrats – who have tried everything to

try to stop the bill – cited a provision of the Indiana Constitution that

they say requires the door to be open.

Initially, House

Speaker Brian Bosma

, R-Indianapolis, asked that

the door be closed. But when Democrats failed to comply, he opted to just leave

it open.

"You have to pick your battles,"

he said.

Union members in the hallway roared

their frustration about the bill, a sound that echoed through the chamber and

drowned out debate.

Inside, five Republicans joined

Democrats in voting no. But Republicans still had enough to pass the

legislation. Bosma said he's confident the bill will

lead to job creation.

"It's not a silver bullet. It's

one more opportunity for employers to take a hard look at Indiana," he

said. "I think this announces, especially in the Rust Belt, that we are

open for business here."

Republican Reps. Ed Sioliday,

of Valparaiso, Tom Dermody, of La Porte, Mike Karickhoff, of Kokomo, and Ron Bacon, of Chandler, all

opposed the bill. Otherwise, the vote fell along party lines.

"People have the right to differ

in their opinions and we respect them in that regard," Bosma

said. "People voted their consciences and this policy is moving forward."

Protesters shouted loudly as both

Democrats and few Republicans spoke on the bill.

Some shouted "Hitler" as

House Republicans debated Democrats, but Bosma

continued House business with the door open.

With Democrats providing a quorum

– a rarity this session – the Republican-controlled House had

initially turned to legislation that had languished during the standoff. But at

2:30 p.m., the House started debating the right-to-work bill, amid the union

jeers.

Rep. Gerald Torr,

R-Carmel, could scarcely be heard over chants of "no right to work"

from protestors as he introduced his bill.

"This bill has nothing to do with

busting unions," Torr said. "I'm convinced

that it will bring jobs and employers to Indiana."

Bauer said that if Republicans vote for

right to work they should scream that they are voting for less.

"This is right to work for less,"

Bauer said. "Less pay, less health care and less safety."

"We don't want minimum wage jobs

in Indiana," Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point,

said. "If that's what you want for Indiana, you should be voting for this

bill, but I don't think we want that for the people we represent."

Rep. Scott Pelath,

D-Michigan City, said his father and grandfather were union members and the right-to-work

bill was a embarrassment.

"I never was prouder of my dad

when he walked the picket line," he said. "He stood on principle."

Pelath

asked Bosma not to bring "shame" to

Indiana, but Republicans say the legislation is not a shame.

"The sky will not fall the day

after right to work passes," said Rep. Sue Ellspermann,

R-Ferdinand. "Not a single right-to-work state has chosen to return to

their non right-to-work status. Twenty-two states are still right-to-work."

Soliday

was the only Republican to speak at the microphone against right-to-work.

He said his colleagues have shown

respect for his difference of opinion.

"I've dealt with unions most of my

life, I've been a member of a union," Soliday

said. "I'm not ashamed of that."

He said he planned to vote his

conscience, which was a "no" vote.

"The great privilege is to be in

this chamber and vote your conscience," he said. "My colleagues have

respected that."

Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon,

said she had, at first, kept an open mind on the issue but voted for the

measure because she wanted to give her constituents the "freedom of choice"

to pay fees to a union or not to.

But Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis,

said he voluntarily pays dues to his union so other members can have the same

workplace experience he had.

He said the union members in the hall

aren't protesting so they can pay fees to union. They protest because they're

afraid of what could happen to unions.

"What you're doing to the great

state of Indiana, it's a shame, it's a shame, it's a shame," he said.

Democrats had walked out Monday after

all seven of their amendments, including one that would have sent the

right-to-work question to a referendum, were rejected by majority Republicans.

They also said Bosma had denied them the chance to

offer more.

But Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne, was

among the Democrats thought it was time to return to the floor.

"The right to work issue's one of

the most important in my entire lifetime and we've worked hard to prohibit it,"

Moses said.

He said that he – and other

Democrats – have paid fines of nearly $10,000

for their absences since last year's session.

"I do so with full responsibility

and proud to do it," he said, but added it was time to return Wednesday.

"All of the amendments offered,

including the referendum, which I thought was terribly important, were

rejected," Moses said. "There are rules and procedures in the

legislature and we were nearing the end of that availability of procedures."

Moses said many Democrats shared the

same feeling and Bauer made the decision for them to return.

"I think the leader made that

decision after listening to many," he said. "I'm not sure which one

of the discussions convinced him today was the day to do it, but we're going to

vote today."

Right to work protestors outside the Indiana House - 1-25-2012 from The Statehouse File on Vimeo.

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