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Thousands protest right-to-work in Indianapolis

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Updated: March 3, 2012 11:32AM



INDIANAPOLIS — To the chants of, “We remember, we vote,” thousands of labor protesters took to the Statehouse lawn Wednesday to rally against right-to-work legislation that only minutes before had cleared the Indiana General Assembly.

Several members of the Northwest Indiana delegation stood in front of the crowd as pro-labor speakers told protesters the fight to preserve their organizations is not over as Indiana becomes the 23rd right-to-work state. The protesters then took their message to the streets of Indianapolis, marching through a downtown already busy in preparation for Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“They think they won a war because you fought this little skirmish like it was a war,” Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said. “But you know the truth, this was just a skirmish in a long war that’s gone on for a long time. I know the Indiana labor movement and our opponents haven’t seen nothing yet.”

Steve Kopack, a member of Carpenters Local 1005 and a resident of Valparaiso, was among those in the crowd. He said his union might organize a protest in Indianapolis on Sunday.

“We got to try to do something,” Kopack said. “They don’t even realize what has been passed here today and how bad it’s going to affect the state of Indiana.”

Outside the Senate chamber, Joe Thomas of Valparaiso stood with members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 697 to watch the vote. The Senate voted 28-22 to pass the House bill to Gov. Mitch Daniels.

“It’s going to destroy our organization,” Thomas said. “It’s going to turn some of our brothers against each other.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Brian Bosma said he felt a sense of accomplishment with the bill’s passage. Republican leaders in both chambers have contended Indiana adopting a right-to-work policy will bring jobs to the state.

“It’s been difficult,” Bosma said. “Probably the most difficult part was asking legislators to go through the gauntlet of a very few folks, very mobilized and very emotional.” 

But outside the Statehouse, the march continued. Lake County Councilman Mike Repay, D-Hammond, stood on the Statehouse steps during the rally.

“I’m concerned about wages of working men and women in the state of Indiana and felt it was important to be here,” Repay said, “and show my support to my friends in labor and not only my friends in labor but working men in women in the state and working men and women in the county.”



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