Indiana became a battleground Tuesday in what is rapidly becoming a nationwide assault on worker’s rights.
Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives, taking their lead from the Wisconsin Fighting 14, fled the state Tuesday morning to deprive the republican majority of a quorum needed pass a bill restricting worker’s rights to collective bargaining.
This so-called ‘right-to-work’ bill would bar contracts that require non-union employees to contribute dues for representation. Eliminating the ‘fair share provision’ of contracts that requires non-union members to pay a fee to cover the costs of collective bargaining weakens the union. Dues-paying members must then incur the full costs of collective bargaining as well as those of maintaining a union. Meanwhile, the ‘free riders’ still gain the benefits of the union contract. Right-to-work laws lower wages and benefits by at least 3 percent for union and non-union workers alike. Such laws are just another way to restrict workers’ rights to collective bargaining, with union-busting being the ultimate goal.
The Indiana bill pertains to private unions not pubic employees. It expectedly drew heavy protests from organized labor. The legislation was also opposed by the National Right To Work Committee because it exempted the construction trades. The bill’s author failed miserably if he included the exemption in an effort to make it more palatable to trade-unionists. Thousands of working people, many of them in the building trades, turned out in full force Tuesday to protest the bill.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels announced Tuesday afternoon that he wanted the republicans to drop the right-to-work legislation, saying that he did not want the issue to jeopardize other bills up for consideration. There are 22 bills that will be dead after Tuesday because they haven’t had a committee report presented to the House. And Thursday is the deadline for 66 more bills to have a second reading.
Daniels, despite the fact that he agrees with their position, had previously warned the republicans not to introduce right-to-work legislation during this session. He pointed out that no republican had run on that issue last fall and, unlike his Wisconsin counterpart who tried to ram a bill through in four days, Daniels felt it was an issue that deserved statewide debate.
But Daniels may have an ulterior motive. This confrontation is jeopardizing his own legislative agenda, which includes an education reform bill that puts limits on teachers’ rights to collective bargaining.