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Senate approves right to work law; Gov. Daniels signs it into law hours later

Updated: March 3, 2012 11:34AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana became the 23rd state to adopt a right-to-work policy Wednesday after weeks of bitter debate in the Indiana General Assembly.

Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the legislation into law hours after the Indiana Senate voted on the bill. The bill makes Indiana a right-to-work state immediately and impacts union contracts entered into or renewed after March 14.   

“This law won’t be a magic answer but we’ll be far better off with it,” Daniels said in a released statement. “I respect those who have objected but they have alarmed themselves unnecessarily: no one’s wages will go down, no one’s benefits will be reduced, and the right to organize and bargain collectively is untouched and intact.”

The Senate debated the legislation that’s dominated the General Assembly this session for nearly two hours before sending the bill to Daniels by a 28-22 vote. Sens. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, and Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, joined Democrats in voting against the bill.

The impact the law will have on businesses relocating to the state may not be measurable for several years, Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research Director Michael Hicks said.

Because of right-to-work, Hicks said, a “significant number of businesses” will consider Indiana as they explore relocating. “But business relocation accounts for a tiny fraction of economic activity … most businesses expand in place,” he said.

What Indiana may see more immediately because of the law is a decline in union participation, Hicks said.

“There is evidence of a big spike in that after right-to-work passes, suggesting a number of people in union-represented industries don’t like the union or are happy to reap whatever collective bargaining they can obtain without having to pay for it,” Hicks said.

As the Senate voted, thousands of labor protesters took over the Statehouse lawn.

Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, recalled her father in telling fellow members that she’s always found unions fair.

“I am a steelworker’s daughter,” Rogers said. “My family, my father and many like him, came to Gary, Indiana, in search of work from the south, and there’s always been a saying in my community that African-Americans were the last hired and the first fired. But one of the things so good about the union was the idea of seniority and how they practiced that fairness across the board.”

In right-to-work states, unions are prohibited from requiring nonmembers to pay dues or fees associated with the cost of representation. Proponents say it will bring economic development opportunities to the state. Opponents argue the measure will lower wages and won’t create new jobs.   

“The bill will not prevent anyone who wants to join a union from doing so,” said state Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, who carried the legislation. “It will simply allow those individuals who don’t want to participate in a union or pay dues to a union that they don’t want to be a part of to have that choice. Unions will still be allowed to exist. They still will be allowed to thrive.”

Senate Democratic Leader Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, said the highest rate of job loss has been in right-to-work states and that the policy is full of myths.

“What this bill does, only, makes it illegal for unions to require each employee who benefits from the terms of the contract, a contract negotiated on their behalf, to pay his or her fair share for that representation,” Simpson said. “It isn’t about jobs, some mythological job that’s hanging out there just waiting to come to Indiana.”

The biggest hurdle for right-to-work legislation was passing the Indiana House where the majority of Democrats boycotted nine days over the bill.

After a Democratic-led amendment to send right-to-work legislation to a statewide referendum was defeated, the House passed the legislation to the Senate with five Republicans voting against the bill.  

In the Senate, the bill had a smoother ride because Republicans hold a supermajority, meaning no Democrats have to attend for the Senate to conduct business.

A Senate committee voted out the bill on Monday and blocked Democrats’ attempts to amend the bill on Tuesday. Because the bill wasn’t amended, the legislation didn’t need to return to the House where it could have faced further delays.



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