“Right to work” is the most dishonest phrase in American political discourse. It sounds like it’s defending people’s right to earn a living. But as used by its supporters, it means making it impossible for workers to form an effective union, couched in the language of “freedom” and “choice.”
Specifically, it means laws banning “union shops,” in which everyone in a workplace has to join the union or pay a fee to cover the cost of union representation. Twenty-four states have such laws. All were in the South and West until last year, when Indiana and Michigan enacted them. Michigan’s law was rammed through the Republican-dominated legislature in a lame-duck session last December.
The Michigan law was “pretty devastating for the labor movement,” says Erin Johansson of American Rights at Work. It came in the state where the United Auto Workers’ six-week occupation of General Motors plants in Flint in 1937 won the victory that opened the doors for unions throughout American industry, the state whose union labor defined the working-class prosperity of World War II to the 1970s.
Both Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Dick DeVos, the heir to the multibillion-dollar Amway fortune who bankrolled the campaign for the law, stuck to the party line about “freedom.” Snyder said the law would give workers “the freedom to choose” and unions “an opportunity to be more responsible to their workers,” because instead of automatically collecting dues, they’d have to show workers “a value proposition.”
“Absolute horseshit,” responds Ed Ott, former head of the New York City Central Labor Council. “This is a total offensive against workers. They don’t want workers to have any say. After workers vote for a union, they don’t want them to maintain membership.”
This year, “right to work” measures were introduced in 17 states, according to Peggy Shorey, director of state government relations at the AFL-CIO. Ten were defeated, including those in Missouri, Kentucky, and New Hampshire, where Gov. John Lynch vetoed one in 2011. Republicans in the Ohio legislature introduced one in early May, but the state senate president said he didn’t want to give Democrats an issue to raise funds on. (Ohio voters overwhelmingly overturned draconian limits on unions in 2011.) Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced one in January, but it hasn’t gotten a committee hearing.
“It’s striking that they were not successful in passing it in Missouri,” says Shorey. The most significant measures still pending, she says, are in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In North Carolina, House Speaker Thom Tillis proposed making the state’s “right to work” law and a ban on public-worker unions an amendment to its constitution, after declaring that he wanted to keep North Carolina “the least unionized state in the United States.” In Pennsylvania, the sponsor is Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, chair of the State Government committee, who also sponsored the state’s voter-ID law and fulminates against “illegal alien invaders.”
Neither measure has made it out of committee, but “after Michigan, anything could happen,” warns Ott.
The Michigan and Indiana laws came as part of the 2011–’12 offensive against worker rights in the upper Midwest, but the concept emerged after the great union victories of the late 1930s. The phrase “right to work” was coined in 1941 by William B. Ruggles, an editorial writer at the Dallas Morning News who didn’t want to join a union. His bosses feared that federal laws and regulations backing union rights were forcing unions down the throats of employers and socializing industry. Ruggles proposed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to work with or without union membership.
Lobbyist Vance Muse, founder of an organization called the Christian Americans, picked up the campaign—but realized that it would be much easier to win state laws than a constitutional amendment. Without such a law, he argued. “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.” He also said the law would help “good niggers, not these communist niggers.”
He won support from business groups, and Texas outlawed the union shop in 1943. Arkansas followed in 1944. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which restricted strikes and banned communists from being union officials, specifically allowed states to pass such laws, in its Section 14(b). By 1960, 18 states had done so, and Wyoming, Louisiana, Idaho, and Oklahoma trickled in over the next few decades.
In 1961, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “right to work” a “fraud,” saying that it “provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ …Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining.” In 1965, the high-water mark of liberal power in Congress in the last 70 years, the House voted to repeal Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, but a filibuster in the Senate preserved the provision.
In today’s network of anti-union think tanks and lobbying groups, the two most concerned with right to work are the National Right to Work Committee and its offshoots, based in Washington’s Virginia suburbs, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in Michigan.
The National Right to Work Committee, founded in 1955, has grown to include a legal offshoot, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and the National Institute for Labor Relations Research. Reed Larson, who headed NRTWC for 45 years, touts the Foundation, established in 1968, as the nation’s first conservative litigating organization.
The committee proclaims that it is “dedicated to the principle that all Americans must have the right to join a union if they choose to,” but its masthead motto is “No one should have to be forced to pay tribute to a union boss to get or keep a job.”
Asked what these organizations have done to support the right to join a union, spokesperson Patrick T. Semmens says that there’s no risk that union membership will be outlawed, but “the right not to join or associate with a union…is not currently the law and therefore is our focus.”
In practice, responds Erin Johansson, if a worker complains to the National Labor Relations Board that she was illegally fired for union activity, it can take eight or nine years to get her job back. “We have nothing now. We don’t have a functioning NLRB,” she adds.
Republicans in the Senate have filibustered President Obama’s nominees to the NLRB for years, to prevent if from having a majority that recognizes workers’ legal rights. If the vacant seats are not filled by August, the board won’t have a quorum. In January, a federal court said Obama’s recess appointments were unconstitutional, and voided rulings they participated in. The National Right to Work Foundation filed an amicus brief in that case, the result of a lawsuit filed by the Chamber of Commerce-backed Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.
The Foundation has won several Supreme Court decisions banning unions from using dues collected from nonmembers for activities not directly related to collective bargaining—that is, supporting pro-union candidates or legislation. It’s also represented people who don’t want to join unions or pay dues, and calls strikebreakers “courageous individuals.”
The Foundation’s list of “Big Labor’s Top Ten Special Privileges” includes just about anything that would make a union effective.
It claims that union “monopoly bargaining” is “depriving employees of the right to make their own employment contracts.” In other words, it denies them their right to ask for a raise on their own and not get one—or to undercut the union by agreeing to work for less.
It claims that unions have the privilege to “strong-arm employers into negotiations,” because “unlike all other parties in the economic marketplace, union officials can compel employers to bargain with them.” As opposed to employers’ right to ignore workers or tell them, “you’re fired, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.”
It claims that union workers have the privilege to “refuse to work while keeping their job,” because they can’t be fired for going on strike. This isn’t exactly true. Employers can’t fire workers striking against unfair labor practices, but they can legally “replace” workers striking for more money. The union movement of the mid-20th century was strong enough so employers rarely did that until after 1981, when President Ronald Reagan fired striking air-traffic controllers. And if employers can fire striking workers, that makes it next to impossible to have a successful strike.
If one wants proof of the union slogan that “right to work” really means “right to work for less,” it’s in a book excerpt posted on the National Right to Work Committee’s Web site. In Stranglehold: How Union Bosses Have Hijacked Our Government, Reed Larson blames the New Deal for establishing the plague of “compulsory unionism.” He writes that the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, by setting minimum wages in various industries, “trampled the rights of workers” by denying them the freedom to make a contract to work for less money.
The “right to work” network’s other main argument is that weakening unions stimulates job growth, that jobs are increasing in states with right-to-work laws. As companies often prefer to move to places with the lowest wages and the weakest safety regulations—witness the garment industry’s migration from the Triangle Shirtwaist Company to the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh over the last century—this makes sense, although Armelagos says, “companies are still moving out of Indiana.”
It’s harder to sell low wages to the public. In 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly wage for union workers was $943 a week, compared to $742 for nonunion workers. To get around this, they argue that per capita income in “right to work” states, adjusted for the cost of living, is equal to, almost equal to, or more than it is in “forced union” states.
Extremist groups, right-wing politicians and their corporate backers want to weaken the power of workers and their unions through so-called “right to work” laws. Their efforts are a partisan political ploy that undermines the basic rights of workers. By making unions weaker, these laws lower wages and living standards for all workers in the state. By many measures, the quality of life is worse in states with “right to work” laws. Wages are lower, poverty and lack of insurance are higher, education is weaker—even infant mortality and the likelihood of being killed on the job are higher.
Lower Wages and Incomes
- The average worker in states with “right to work” laws makes $1,540 a year less when all other factors are removed than workers in other states.1
- Median household income in states with these laws is $6,437 less than in other states ($46,402 vs. $52,839).2
- In states with “right to work” laws, 26.7 percent of jobs are in low-wage occupations, compared with 19.5 percent of jobs in other states.3
Less Job-Based Health Insurance Coverage
- People in states with “right to work” laws are more likely to be uninsured (16.8 percent, compared with 13.1 percent overall; among children, it’s 10.8 percent vs. 7.5 percent).4
- They’re less likely to have job-based health insurance than people in other states (56.2 percent, compared with 60.1 percent).5
- Only 50.7 percent of employers in states with these laws offer insurance coverage to their employees, compared with 55.2 percent in other states. That difference is even more significant among small employers (with fewer than 50 workers)—only 34.4 percent of them offer workers health insurance, compared with 41.7 percent of small employers in other states.6
Higher Poverty and Infant Mortality Rates
- Poverty rates are higher in states with “right to work” laws (15.3 percent overall and 21.5 percent for children), compared with poverty rates of 13.1 percent overall and 18.1 percent for children in states without these laws.7
- The infant mortality rate is 15 percent higher in states with these laws.8
Less Investment in Education
- States with “right to work” laws spend $3,392 less per pupil on elementary and secondary education than other states, and students are less likely to be performing at their appropriate grade level in math and reading.9
Higher Rates of Death on the Job
- The rate of workplace deaths is 36 percent higher in states with these laws, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.10
Fox Business’ Dobbs: “What This Law Changes Is Forced Union Membership. I Repeat: Forced Union Membership.” Discussing Michigan’s new law on the December 11 edition of his Fox Business program, host Lou Dobbs mislead viewers about the effect of right-to-work laws. He claimed that “Michigan workers still tonight have the right to form and join a union. They still have the right to bargain collectively. And what this law changes is forced union membership. I repeat, forced union membership.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 12/11/12]
Maine Center For Economic Policy: “Under Federal Labor Law, Workers Cannot Be Legally Required To Join A Union.” The Maine Center for Economic Policy laid out how forced union membership is illegal in a February 2011 op-ed: “A right-to-work law is not needed to protect nonunion workers. Several federal laws already protect the rights of nonunion employees in unionized workplaces, such as the NLRB vs. General Motors Supreme Court decision in 1963, and the Communication Workers vs. Beck decision of 1988. Under federal labor law, workers cannot be legally required to join a union as part of a collective bargaining contract.” [Maine Center For Economic Policy, 2/19/11]
National Right To Work: “No Employee In The United States Can Legally Be Required” To Be A Full Union Member. Even National Right To Work, an organization that promotes right-to-work laws, acknowledges that forced union membership is already illegal. Informing workers of their rights concerning unions, Right To Work makes clear that “[n]o employee in the United States can legally be required to be a full-dues-paying, formal union member. But in many states, an employee can be forced to pay certain union dues or be fired from his or her job.” [National Right To Work, accessed 12/11/12]
NLRB: Workers That Don’t Want Full Union Membership “Pay Only That Share Of Dues Used Directly For Representation” Of Union Contract They Work Under. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) explains that workers do not have to be full union members, but instead must only pay for the union representation they receive by working at a union shop, regardless of their membership status. The NLRB says that “employees who object to full union membership may continue as ‘core’ members and pay only that share of dues used directly for representation, such as collective bargaining and contract administration. Known as objectors, they are no longer full members but are still protected by the union contract.” NLRB also notes that right-to-work states allow non-union members to pay nothing, “even though all workers are protected by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the union.” [National Labor Relations Board, accessed 12/11/12]
Center For American Progress: “Right-To-Work” Laws “Allow Some Workers To Receive A Free Ride.”A Center for American Progress report titled “Right-to-Work 101” explained that “right-to-work” laws simply “allow some workers to receive a free ride” by receiving benefits from a union contract without having to pay for it:
In states where the law exists, “right-to-work” makes it illegal for workers and employers to negotiate a contract requiring everyone who benefits from a union contract to pay their fair share of the costs of administering it. Right-to-work has nothing to do with people being forced to be union members.
Federal law already guarantees that no one can be forced to be a member of a union, or to pay any amount of dues or fees to a political or social cause they don’t support. What right-to-work laws do is allow some workers to receive a free ride, getting the advantages of a union contract — such as higher wages and benefits and protection against arbitrary discipline — without paying any fee associated with negotiating on these matters.
That’s because the union must represent all workers with the same due diligence regardless of whether they join the union or pay it dues or other fees and a union contract must cover all workers, again regardless of their membership in or financial support for the union. In states without right-to-work laws, workers covered by a union contract can refuse union membership and pay a fee covering only the costs of workplace bargaining rather than the full cost of dues. [Center for American Progress Action Fund, 2/2/12]
From the 12.11.2012 edition of FBN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight:
Two more large American companies, headquartered in the Midwest, have responded to their customers and cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC): General Motors (GM) and Walgreens. This brings the total to 30 corporations and four non-profits — 34 total private sector members — that have cut ties to the right-wing corporate bill mill.
Although the full extent of GM’s ALEC membership is not known, it was a member in 1992. In 2011, it paid for a seat on both ALEC’sCommerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force and itsEnergy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. The commerce task force is the primary source of anti-worker and anti-consumer legislation such as the “Paycheck Protection" and "Right to Work" Acts and other "model" bills that limit workers’ rights and drain labor unions of resources for protecting employees, undermine consumer protections, favor the Wall Street financial agenda, and limit the ability to cap exorbitant interest rates on credit cards and big bank fees.
One of Walgreens’ major competitors, CVS Caremark, announced earlier this month that it had discontinued its ALEC membership, asCMD has reported. Like CVS, Walgreens was a member of ALEC’sHealth and Human Services Task Force, which works to privatize Medicare, deregulate health insurers, protect negligent doctors, and cut holes in the safety net. These anti-patient “model” bills erode the rights and health of Americans. Walgreens was also a “Trustee” level sponsor of ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting. It is not known whether or not Walgreens has already funded ALEC’s 2012 annual meeting, where corporations and state legislators are meeting behind closed doors this week in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Rush to Dump ALEC
Corporations that have publicly cut ties to ALEC in recent weeks include EnergySolutions, Connections Education, Express Scripts/Medco, Best Buy, Hewlett-Packard, MillerCoors, CVS Caremark, John Deere, Dell, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, Medtronic, Amazon.com, Scantron Corporation, Kaplan Higher Education, Procter & Gamble, YUM! Brands, Blue Cross Blue Shield, American Traffic Solutions, Reed Elsevier, Arizona Public Service, Mars, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Intuit, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola. The addition of GM and Walgreens brings the total to 30. Four non-profits — Lumina Foundation for Education, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and the Gates Foundation — and 56 state legislators have also cut ties with ALEC.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has long denied that he has a secret strategy to destroy public sector unions as part of a long-term plan to make Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state where unions are dramatically weakened.
But, with the recall election that could replace Walker barely three weeks away, a remarkable videotape of the governor describing just such as a strategy has surfaced. In it, Walker is seen promising a billionaire campaign donor that the attack on collective-bargaining rights for public-sector unions—which sparked demonstrations and the movement that has forced the recall election—was only “the first step” in a grand plan.
The videotape, shot on January 18, 2011, just days after Walker was sworn in as Wisconsin’s Republican governor and several weeks before he proposed to use a “budget repair” bill to gut union rights, was released Thursday by the documentary filmmaker who filmed it.
“Oh, yeah!” says Walker.
Henricks then asks: “And become a right-to-work [state]?”
Walker replies: “Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer… That opens the door once we do that.”
Though he has become known nationally as a militant foe of unions, Walker has always denied that he attacked public sector unions to achieve a political end.
Pro-business conservatives are pursuing an unprecedented assault on the rights of working families at both the national and state levels. Congress and no fewer than 37 state legislatures are pushing through right-to-work or related bills. Some of them are passing. Everywhere, though, the arguments supporting the laws are based on outright falsehoods, some of them, including phrases like ‘forced unionism’, are embedded in the names of the legislation. Organizations like the National Right to Work Committee use scary language, including threats of union violence and allusions to corrupt union bosses, and misleading or false propaganda to pursue their anti-worker agenda
Movement conservatives at all levels echo these types of claims and use the army of talking points from the NRTWC and the Republican Party. The problem is that the talking points are just plain false. Here’s the reality about right-to-work (for less) laws:
Federal law already prohibits any American from being forced to join a union. Since this is almost the only argument that conservatives put forth in supporting right-to-work laws, and it’s 100 percent false, what is the real motivation for these laws? Right-to-work laws don’t grant any rights, they simply weaken unions Federal law also prohibits unions from using member or non-member fees from paying for activities that might violate the political or religious beliefs of the worker These laws allow workers who do not pay union dues to obtain the same benefits, including legal representation from unions, as union members without paying for them Workers (union and non-union) in right-to-work states make more than $5,000 a year less, on average, than in other states. States without right-to-work laws have healthier tax bases, which leads to better government programs and educational systems Because unions lead in the fight to ensure safety and health standards for all workers, laws that weaken unions also weaken these standards. The workplace death rate is 51 percent higher in right-to-work states Without strong unions to fight for benefits for workers, right-to-work states have 21 percent more people without health insurance The infant mortality rate in right-to-work states is 16 percent higher Without strong unions to fight for better wages for all workers, the poverty rate in right-to-work states is 2.3 percent higher Right-to-work states offer a maximum weekly worker compensation benefit $30 less than other states Right-to-work laws disproportionately harm women. Union women, on average, earn $149 more per week than non-union women The wage gap between men and women in the United States is 32 percent. it is only 5 percent between union men and women Right-to-work laws disproportionately harm people of color. Hispanic and Latino union members earn 45 percent more and African-Americans who are in unions see salaries 30 percent higher than African-Americans that are not in unions The more workers that are unionized, the higher the wages that employers will offer, even to non-union workers, since workers are less willing to accept substandard wages Higher wages mean more money is spent by working families, boosting the economy and leading to lower uneployment numbers Higher rates of unionism lead to increases in productivity in both union jobs and non-union jobs, as employers must bring in new technology, new techniques and better training in order to attract better workers Employers frequently offer higher wages to workers in order to prevent them from organizing a union, meaning that even the presence of unions and the possibility of their existence in a workplace increases wages Right-to-work laws undercut unionized businesses in the states where they exist because non-union businesses can offer cheaper goods and services by exploiting their workers Right-to-work laws interfere with empoyer-worker contracts by limiting what the two sides can engage in. These laws don’t encourage freedom, they restrain it for all involved, placing the ‘wisdom’ of conservative politicians over that of both empoyers and workers.
With a sweeping series of bills introduced Monday night in the state Senate, Republicans in Arizona hoped to make Wisconsin’s battle against public unions last year look like a lightweight sparring match.
The bills include a total ban on collective bargaining for Arizona’s public employees, including at the city and county levels. The move would outpace even the tough bargaining restrictions enacted in Wisconsin in 2011 that led to massive union protests and a Democratic effort to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
“At first glance, it looks like an all out assault on the right of workers to organize,” Senate Minority Leader David Schapira (D) told TPM on Tuesday. “And to me, that’s a serious problem.”
The bills were crafted with the help of the Goldwater Institute, a powerful conservative think tank in Phoenix that flew Walker to the state for an event in November. Nick Dranias, director of the institute’s Center for Constitutional Government, told TPM he sees Walker as a “hero” but that Wisconsin’s laws were “modest” compared to Arizona’s measures.
“In Arizona, we believe that the political will exists to do even more comprehensive reform,” Dranias said. “The environment, the climate that we face in Arizona is much more receptive to these kinds of reforms than Wisconsin is.”
Beyond a ban on collective bargaining, the bills would also prohibit state and local government workers from deducting money from their paychecks to pay union dues.
They would ban state and local governments from paying anyone to spend time doing union work, a practice known as “release time.”
And in another break from the Wisconsin model, the restrictions would affect every type of public union, including police and firefighters.
Arizona is a right-to-work state, which gives unions a much smaller role there than in states like Wisconsin. But laws still currently give labor groups a place at the bargaining table to negotiate pay and other benefits for their members. All of that would change under the proposed rules.
Schapira, who is also running for Congress this year, said he expects the laws to easily pass unless something major happens. Democrats in the Senate are outnumbered 21-9, so he said there isn’t much they can do to stop the bills on their own.
“I think it’s kind of an all-hands-on-deck thing,” Schapira said. “We’ve got to get people down here at the Capitol to talk to their legislators, to contact them by phone or email and if need be to actually spend a significant amount of time here protesting these bills.”
The restrictions are on top of a proposal that Gov. Jan Brewer made earlier this month, saying she would offer state employees their first pay raise in years in exchange for giving up certain protections.
He said the institute has told Arizona’s legislators the state will save as much as $550 million a year if they put an end to collective bargaining.
Jan Brewer is proposing a bill that makes Scott Walker’s, Mitch Daniels’s, and John Kasich’s bills look rational in comparison. Remember that Arizona was ALREADY a RTWFL state.
As Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels prepares to sign right-to-work legislation into law, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said he’s not worried about the move driving companies out of Illinois and to Indiana.
Before Quinn presented his State of the State address Wednesday, he told CBS Chicago that most Illinois businesses are happy with union labor, and that prohibiting unions from requiring representation fees is a bad policy.
“That ain’t gonna happen, I’ll tell you that,” Quinn said, when asked by CBS whether businesses will leave Illinois for Indiana. “I think that’s a bad bill and I’m very sorry that Mitch Daniels is gonna sign the ‘right to work for less’ bill. That’s a bad bill for the incomes of hard-working people.”
Indiana lawmakers voted Wednesday to make Indiana the Rust Belt’s first right-to-work state, the Associated Press reports.
Hundreds of union members gathered inside the Statehouse chanted “Shame on you!” and “See you at the Super Bowl!” as the vote was announced. Thousands more amassed outside for a rally that was expected to spill into the Indianapolis streets, already bustling with Super Bowl festivities, hoping to point a national spotlight on the state.
Indiana will be the first state in a decade to enact a right-to-work law, although few states with legislation in place boast Indiana’s union clout, borne of a long manufacturing legacy. The move is likely to embolden national right-to-work advocates who have unsuccessfully pushed the measure in other states following a Republican sweep of statehouses in 2010.
“Having a good union work force like Caterpillar and John Deere and Ford and Mitsubishi and Chrysler; they all have – Navistar as well – they’re all organized by the UAW and the UAW believes in making sure that people get a decent wage, get a decent health care plan and a decent retirement,” Quinn told CBS.
Quinn has also criticized Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, saying that the Republican governor "should be ashamed of himself" for taking collective bargaining rights away from public workers.
h/t: HuffPost Chicago
INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Indiana became the 23rd state to pass anti-union “right-to-work” legislation on Wednesday and the first in the nation’s manufacturing heartland, dealing a blow to organized labor by allowing workers to opt out of paying union dues.
Indiana’s Republican governor Mitch Daniels signed the legislation into law immediately after it was given final approval in the state Senate, making Indiana the first state to adopt such a measure since Oklahoma did so a decade ago.
Daniels, governor since 2005 and a prominent spokesman for Republicans nationally, said he decided Indiana needed the controversial new law after several businesses decided to locate elsewhere.
"Seven years of evidence and experience ultimately demonstrated that Indiana did need a right-to-work law to capture jobs for which, despite our highly rated business climate, we are not currently being considered," he said in a statement after signing the bill.
Indiana is being closely watched by both major political parties in the presidential election debate over job creation and reviving the U.S. economy.
The Indiana state Senate vote of 28 to 22 was followed by calls of “shame, shame” from members of the public outside the chamber. Opponents of right-to-work call it “union busting” and say it will lower the wages of workers.
The vote drew thousands of protesters to the state capital in Indianapolis on Wednesday. Some shouted “Stop the Super Bowl,” referring to the fact that the city will host Sunday’s National Football League championship game.
About 2,000 people were inside the Capitol building, and large crowds were also on the outside as the vote took place, but no count of the crowd outside was available, according to Indiana State Police Captain David Bursten.
Republican state Senator Carlin Yoder, the bill’s main sponsor, said it would not prevent anyone from joining a union.
"It is simply allowing those individuals to decide for themselves if they want to pay union dues or not," Yoder said during the floor debate on Wednesday.
DEMOCRATS TRIED TO DELAY BILL
Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, a Democrat, called the notion that many employers would be attracted to Indiana because of the law a myth.
"Right-to work is a race to the bottom, it’s a downward spiral to lower wages and fewer benefits," Simpson said.
Indiana joins 22 other states with right-to-work laws, most of them in the South and West, and its action could encourage other states to pass similar laws.
Democrats and their union supporters tried to slow the bill by boycotting the legislature and other delaying tactics, but Republicans supportive of right-to-work control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office.
John Sampson, president of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, an economic development group, said he viewed passage of the bill as historic.
"I think this sends a clear message to the country that Indiana is going to lead in preparing a place for us to grow our economy and make a place for workers to be successful in the future," Sampson said. As for the argument that the bill would drive down wages and benefits, Sampson said "the marketplace sets wages, not unions."
Indiana passed similar legislation in 1957 but it was repealed in 1965.
"As working men and women did in the 1950s and 60s, this generation of Hoosiers will now rise up, join forces and repeal this anti-worker agenda again," Indiana State AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott was quoted as saying on the organization’s website.
In 2011, 11.3 percent of wage and salary workers in Indiana were members of unions, compared to 11.8 percent in the country overall, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
h/t: Chicago Tribune
It’s not exactly a secret that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels once opposed passing a so-called “right to work” law in his state, but it’s nice to have the video reminder that in 2006 he said, to a union audience:We cannot afford to have civil wars over issues that might divide us and divert us from that path. I have said over and over, I’ll say it again tonight: I’m a supporter of the labor laws we have in the state of Indiana. I’m not interested in changing any of it. Not the prevailing wage laws, and certainly not the right to work law. We can succeed in Indiana with the laws we have, respecting the rights of labor, and fair and free competition for everybody.
Amanda Terkel traces Daniels’ shifting positions on the issue:In March 2006, the South Bend Tribune in Indiana noted, “Daniels had said earlier this year that he opposed right-to-work legislation as too divisive. But he did not address its inherent merits or demerits.”
In December 2010, however, Daniels said that the right-to-work issue was “legitimate” but was “too big to do without having discussed it out in the open first.”
"I’ll also say I think it would have the potential — just tactically — to possibly reduce or wreck the chances for education reform and local government reform and criminal justice reform and the things we have a wonderful chance to do," he added, acknowledging that it would be incredibly controversial.