Indiana 'Right-to-Work' (For Less) Battle Heats Up

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and his allies in the state legislature are pushing so-called 'right-to-work' legislation in Indiana that they claim will create jobs when, in reality, the legislation is a thinly-veiled assault on Indiana workers.

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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and his allies in the state legislature are pushing so-called 'right-to-work' legislation in Indiana that they claim will create jobs when, in reality, the legislation is a thinly-veiled assault on Indiana workers. Two bills before the legislature, HB 1001 and SB 269, would establish Indiana as a 'right-to-work' state. The bills are based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and are a top priority for Republicans. An ad campaign in favor of the bills is being funded by a mysterious group known as the Indiana Opportunity Fund that refuses to divulge its donors.

Backers of the bills argue they are necessary to improve the economy of the state, but the real motives are something else:

So-called right-to-work laws, which are in effect in 22 states, make it harder for workers to organize, join, and maintain unions. “Right-to-work laws are about bankrupting unions in Indiana and across the country,” said Richard Knipp Teamster Local 142 secretary-treasurer in Gary. “The argument that such legislation attracts more corporate business is a complete fabrication. Right-to-work-for-less is designed to diminish union treasuries, weaken our political power, and kick our members out of the middle class.”

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“Hoosiers (Indiana residents) want the General Assembly to focus on fixing the economy and creating good paying jobs rather than these tired old partisan attacks on collective bargaining rights, and we hope these commercials serve as a reminder of that,” said Nancy Guyott, Indiana AFL-CIO president.

Daniels also attempted to close off the statehouse to the public while the bills were being discussed in the legislature. Democrats are pushing for public hearings to allow the public to debate the bill, but Republicans have so far refused.

Conservative claims about 'right-to-work' fall flat:

The so-called “right to work” bill is a dream policy of corporations like the ones that have funded the campaigns of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. It would disempower workers relative to corporations and essentially dismantle workers’ right to collectively bargain for fair wages and decent working conditions. Laws like these actually result in lower wages for workers, both union and non-union, studies have shown, and don’t lead to economic growth as proponents claim. It’s an ideological crusade, and one that serves as a distraction from what state legislators should be focusing on, which is making sure Hoosiers can get good jobs.

The evidence is pretty compelling that 'right-to-work' laws hurt wages for all workers:

Marty Wolfson, an economics professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Higgins Labor Studies Program, finds that contrary to proponents’ claims—such as those by the Chamber of Commerce, the extremist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and others—so-called right to work laws actually lower wages for all workers, union and nonunion alike.

While Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) wave around statistics-loaded reports they claim show how such laws increase wages, those reports, says Wolfson, cook the books by using unreliable and biased figures.

“Right to work” for less advocates also claim that wages in so-called right to work states are actually higher than elsewhere, after taking into account the variable cost of living. The formula the Chamber and others use compares the cost of living for professional and managerial households in the top income brackets.

Gordon Lafer, a professor at University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center, says that formula “doesn’t tell us about real costs of living for the other 80 percent of people.”

Furthermore, these type of laws are found to reduce wages, on average, by $1,500 a year for all workers. They also decrease the likelihood that nonunion workers will get health care or pensions and do nothing to create jobs.

These laws also encourage the free rider problem, allowing nonunion workers to get benefits that unions negotiate without having to pay their share for the process.

Proponents of 'right-to-work' laws argue that without such 'protections', workers can be forced to join unions, which is not true and is illegal under federal law and has been since 1947.

About Kenneth Quinnell

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