By Samm Quinn
The House passed a right-to-work bill
bill54-43 Wednesday after a chaotic debate that included union workers
yelling through the chamber's door to try to drown out Republicans who support
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
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
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
Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, asked that
the door be closed. But when Democrats failed to comply, he opted to just leave
"You have to pick your battles,"
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
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."
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."
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
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
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,"
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