Indiana right-to-work-for-less bill dead for now; other anti-worker bills still on the table

Demonstrations in Indianapolis, Indiana’s state capital, continued today after leaders of the state legislature announced yesterday that a proposed right-to-work-for-less bill was dead. The bill, HB 1468, would have weakened Indiana’s unions and their ability to bargain for better pay and benefits. But the legislature is still considering other anti-working class bills that include banning collective bargaining rights for state employees and restricting them for public school teachers.

On Wednesday, union members and supporters organized by the Indiana state AFL-CIO and Stand Up For Hoosiers, a community organization, filled the gallery of the House of Representative as the house prepared to debate HB 1468.  Workers chanted, “they want profits, we want jobs” and “kill the bill” forcing House Speaker Brian Bosna, a Republican, to clear the gallery and adjourn the house.

After adjourning, Bosna and his counterpart in the state senate announced that HB 1468 was dead for this session because on Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers had gone to Illinois so that there wouldn’t be a quorum for Wednesday’s vote. 

Events leading up to Wednesday’s announcement began early this year when Indiana Republicans decided to fast track HB 1468, which mirrored similar efforts to cram down right-to-work-for-less legislation in other states like Missouri and New Hampshire.

In response, unions began organizing to fight back. They held community meetings to explain how the proposed right-to-work-for-less law would hurt all working people in Indiana. One of those meetings was held in Terre Haute on Friday night where David Williams, President of the Wabash Valley Central Labor Council, told the audience, “The fact is that wages in right-to-work-(for-less) states are lower.”

Williams also pointed out that strong unions not only help union workers get higher wages, they boost wages for non-union workers whose employers pay more to keep their workers from organizing unions. Williams cited Toyota Motor Co as an example.

Williams also said that bills like HB 1468 do nothing to protect workers’ right to work, but they do weaken union power because they prohibit unions from collecting fees from non-union workers to pay for union services like contract negotiations and contract enforcement. Without these fees, non-union workers (also known as free riders) at union jobs would have the same rights and benefits as union members without having to pay their fair share of the cost.

Proponents also claim right-to-work-for-less laws create jobs, but five of the ten states with the highest unemployment rates in the US are right-to-work-for-less states. Those states are Nevada (14.5 percent, the highest in the US), Florida (12 percent), South Carolina (10.7 percent), Georgia (10.2 percent), and Mississippi (10.1 percent).

On Monday when a committee hearing on HB 1468 was scheduled to begin, the Indiana state AFL-CIO and Stand Up For Hoosiers called for union members and supporters to rally at the state Capitol. About 1,000 showed up. Many stayed for the afternoon hearing. 

But HB 1468 was voted out of committee by a vote of 8 to 5 and was sent to the full house where a vote was planned for Wednesday; however, on Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers left the state for Illinois. 

While Democratic lawmakers were on their way to Illinois, union members and supporters went back to the Capitol for more rallies. More turned out on Tuesday than on Monday. After it became clear that the Democrats wouldn’t be returning, Gov Mitch Daniels requested that legislative leaders withdraw HB 1468, which they did on Wednesday.

Union workers and community supporters are continuing their demonstrations in Indianapolis and will continue to do so for at least the rest of this week because HB 1468 isn’t the only anti-working class bill on Republicans’ agenda. In all, Stand Up For Hoosiers has identified 11 anti-worker bills being considered, including HB 1568, which bans collective bargaining for state employees and SB 575, which limits collective bargaining rights for public school teachers.

At this time, the Democratic lawmakers who left Indiana are in Illinois and are refusing to come back until Republicans agree to negotiate on these 11 other bills. And Indiana unions and Stand Up For Hoosiers continue to demand that their voices be heard in Indianapolis.

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