For 24 days, workers in Indiana have kept a vigil at the Indiana statehouse to demonstrate their opposition to anti-worker bills proposed by the state’s right-wing lawmakers and right-wing governor Mitch Daniels.
“(Indiana’s) working men and women cannot be ignored,” said Nancy Guyott, president of the Indiana AFL-CIO. “We will continue to make our voices heard until these politicians end this assault on working families.”
The assualt began earlier in the year when Indiana Republicans in concert with fellow right-wingers across the US decided that the time was right to push an aggressive anti-worker agenda aimed at weakening unions and taking away rights and benefits that have made working-class life more secure.
The first order of business was to make Indiana a right-to-work-for-less state. Republicans filed HB 1468, which would have allowed non-union workers to avoid paying their fair share for union-provided services such as contract negotiations and enforcement. The purpose of the bill says the Facebook page of Stand Up For Hoosiers, a community organization opposing the anti-working class agenda, is to weaken unions “and ultimately drive down wages, benefits, workplace safety, and our voice on the job.”
HB 1468 was shelved when demonstrations by Indiana workers gave Democratic lawmakers the courage to walk out of the Capitol and travel to Illinois, so that a vote on the measure could not be held. They have remained in Illinois since February 23, which prevents the passage of other anti-worker bills.
To make sure that the Democrats remain in Illinois so that no further action can be taken on the anti-worker bills, workers have maintained their vigil at the statehouse. “This is truly a fight about all workers,” said Jeff Combs of Teamster Local 135. “It’s an attack on all workers; union or non-union, we’re here for everybody.”
Other Indiana bills aimed at weakening unions and making life more difficult for workers include bills that would
- ban collective bargaining for state employees,
- weaken or prohibit project labor agreements that ensure that public construction projects are built safely and that construction workers are treated fairly and paid a fair wage,
- prohibit municipal governments from setting the local minimum wage higher than the state’s minimum wage,
- restrict collective bargaining for teachers, and
- divert state money away from public schools to private schools.
Last week, the largest rally of the workers’ campaign was held in Indianapolis. More than 20,000 public and private sector union workers and their supporters marched and rallied in Indianapolis against the right wing’s anti-worker agenda. Some construction workers like members of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) walked off their jobs to join the rally.
“The anti-worker special interests and politicians (that) they got into office think they can trample all over the rights of working people,” said Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the LIUNA. “(But) who will balance the power of corporate cash and speak for the middle class if the attacks on the unions succeed.”
The right-wing agenda in Indiana is expansive. On Tuesday the state Senate held hearings on an anti-immigrant bill like the one passed last year in Arizona that would deprive immigrants of legal due process and make it more difficult for them to attend Indiana state universities and colleges.
While union workers kept their vigil, about 200 people rallied against the bill. “We’ve been here in (Indiana) for almost 22 years,” said Maria Hernandez. “It feels like home.” Hernandez is worried that if the bill is enacted, it would break up her family by causing some of her family members to be deported.
“I don’t think government should target specific people just because they look (different) from other people,” said Robert Johnson, who was attending the rally against the anti-immigration bill.