By Samm Quinn and Lesley Weidenbener
Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels
Mitch Danielsannounced in a statement Thursday that he would support GOP
are undecided about the issue.
Daniels said that Indiana "gets dealt out of hundreds
of new job opportunities" because it doesn't have the law, which would
free workers from paying dues to unions they don't join, even if the group
"Lack of that simple freedom to choose costs some
workers money they'd rather keep, but it also costs something even larger:
Countless middle-class jobs that would come to Indiana if only we provided
right to work protection," Daniels said.
Republican legislative leaders already have announced they
would make right-to-work
their top priority for the session. But while Daniels has said he supported the
concept, he had previously stopped short of saying he would back a
right-to-work law in Indiana.
On Thursday, the governor said that after a year of study
and reflection, he has decided that "knowing how many additional jobs we
could be capturing is what has persuaded me that we must enact this
"When a business allows us to compete, we win
two-thirds of the time," Daniels said in the statement. "But between
a quarter and a half of the time, we don't make the first cut, due to this
Democrats and union leaders oppose right-to-work. They say
it will weaken unions and lead to lower wages.
On Thursday, AFL-CIO
President Nancy Guyott said the governor's decision to back the legislation
"It's a little bit ironic as the governor has contended
for seven years, Indiana can prosper with the labor laws that we have,"
Guyott said. "As a number of polls now show it's not an issue Hoosiers are
now clamoring for."
A new Ball State University
State Universitypoll has found that nearly half of all Hoosiers are
undecided about the right-to-work proposal, which is expected to dominate the
upcoming legislative session.
The survey of 607 Hoosiers shows 27 percent of respondents
support and 24 percent oppose a right-to-work law, which would free workers
from paying fees to unions they don't join.
The poll found 48 percent of respondents were undecided or
had no opinion. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage
"This is not a settled issue in Indiana," said
Raymond Scheele, co-director of the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball
State. "There's a lot of persuasion that has to take place."
The Bowen Center released the poll Thursday morning at the
Legislative Conference, an annual event that previews the General Assembly's
session, which begins in January.
Minutes later, legislative leaders were debating the issue
in a feisty forum that previewed just how divisive the right-to-work proposals
Senate President Pro Tem David Long
President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Thursday the issue is
about creating jobs and offering choices to workers, not about hurting unions.
But Democrats say the proposal is meant to weaken unions and
will lead to lower wages statewide. And Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson
Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, said the resulting debate will
distract lawmakers from acting on other job-creation measures.
"The whole session is going to be eaten up by this
issue," Simpson said.
Critics and supporters of right-to-work proposals have been
touting their own studies and polls. But Scheele said Ball State officials
worked to carefully frame their questions to reflect both points of view.
He said the phrase "right to work" doesn't tell
respondents enough to make an informed judgment. Scheele said when Hoosiers
hear both sides, many are undecided.
"Clearly neither side on this issue has yet closed the
sale on whether there should be right to work or whether the bill should be
defeated," Scheele said.
House Minority Leader Pat Bauer
Bauer, D-South Bend, said lawmakers should postpone the discussion until
after the next election to discuss right to work but Republicans said it can't
"It's worth the effort," Long said. "It will
make a difference, and it will be a game changer for Indiana."
Daniels' statement on right to work:
After a year of study
and reflection, I have come to agree that it is time for Indiana to join the 22
states which have enacted right to work laws.
Right to work says
only that no worker can be forced to pay union dues in order to keep a job.
Lack of that simple freedom to choose costs some workers money they'd rather
keep, but it also costs something even larger: countless middle-class jobs that
would come to Indiana if only we provided right to work protection.
Seven years of
experience at our Indiana Economic Development Corporation has confirmed what
every economic development expert tells us: despite our top-ranked business
climate, Indiana gets dealt out of hundreds of new job opportunities because we
have no right to work law. When a business allows us to compete, we win
two-thirds of the time. But between a quarter and a half of the time, we don't
make the first cut, due to this single handicap. Knowing how many additional
jobs we could be capturing is what has persuaded me that we must enact this
I have listened with
respect to the advocates of compulsory dues and looked into their arguments,
but they just don't hold up. Right to work states have, if anything, better
rates of worker safety. The vital right to organize is totally unaffected;
every right to work state has significant union presence, and some have higher
rates of unionization than Indiana does.
If the national
economy were not in such terrible condition, we might not find this step
necessary, but in this time when so many are jobless, or struggling, it would
be irresponsible not to act when we know that thousands of good jobs are at
Lesley Weidenbener is editor of the Franklin College Statehouse Bureau and oversees the bureau's student reporting force.