Indiana unions oppose ‘Right to Work for Less’

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THE PASSAGE of a ‘Right to Work’ bill, which promotes cheap labour and denies basic representation to workers in the state of Indiana, has been met with anger by the unions involved.

After a protracted battle, Indiana on Wednesday elected to make union dues optional for workers in union jobs. It’s the first state in more than 10 years to adopt a so-called right-to-work law and the first state ever in the industrial Midwest to go that route.

Twenty-two other states have such a law.

Union members say it does not hit at first, but new hires see it as a way to keep more of their low wages, so do not join up, eating away at membership.

They say it is also a way of undermining the Democratic Party, who get funds from the unions.

AFL-CIO President Richard L Trumka made a statement on Wednesday over what he called the ‘Passage of the “Right to Work for Less” Bill’ in Indiana, a state where residents are known as ‘Hoosiers’.

Trumka said: ‘Today’s passage of the so-called “Right to Work” bill in Indiana marks a sad day for working Hoosiers.

‘It reflects an extreme partisan agenda that is all about payback to corporate donors, instead of creating good jobs for working families and fostering a middle-class economy.

‘We all know that “Right to Work” policies don’t create jobs. Study after study has shown that they reduce wages, benefits, and safety for all working people – the last thing anyone needs in this economy.

‘It’s a shame that flip-flopping politicians like Governor Daniels are focusing on a divisive partisan agenda – rather than creating jobs as they were elected to do.

‘Working people are energised and will remember who stood with them and who stood with the 1% on Election Day.’

Following Wednesday’s passage of the so-called ‘right to work’ law, Indiana State AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott issued the following statement:

‘On behalf of all working men and women across Indiana, we are extremely disappointed that the Indiana General Assembly has passed the “right to work for less” bill today.

‘They have set our state upon a path that will lead to lower wages for all working Hoosiers, less safety at work, and less dignity and security in old age or ill health.

‘Indiana’s elected officials have given the wrong answer to the most important question of this generation.

‘I am reminded of the saying “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and it seems especially fitting today.

‘Hoosiers have been here before.

‘From 1957 to 1965, Indiana experimented with this exact same law and after its utter failure to produce on any of its promises of economic salvation Hoosiers rose up, changed elected officials and repealed it.

‘It appears we are headed there again.

‘Sadly, the passage of this bill not only means that workers’ rights and ability to collectively bargain will be significantly weakened, it means that strong-arm tactics, misinformation and big money have won at the Indiana Statehouse.

‘Citizens who stood against this legislation were barred from entering the Statehouse, were denied the chance to testify before the committees considering it and were refused meetings with their own legislators.

‘Independent, fact-based assessments of the economic impact on this legislation were dismissed in favour of stories, promises and unsubstantiated claims by out-of-state special interest groups.

‘And Indiana’s legislative traditions were dishonoured as those in power rammed through this bill at reckless speed to avoid further public scrutiny and to please their corporate paymasters.

‘However their victory will be as short lived, as this legislation is shortsighted. As working men and women did in the 1950s and 60s, this generation of Hoosiers will now rise up, join forces and repeal this anti-worker agenda again.

‘In 2006, Governor Daniels predicted a “civil war” if this legislation was brought forth – yet, on his way out of office, he launched this divisive attack anyway.

‘But he was wrong; this is not a battle of brother against brother. It is a battle of Hoosier neighbours against corporate special interests from fields afar.

‘And while it is not a war of our choosing, over the days ahead, citizen by citizen, block by block, community by community, legislative seat by legislative seat we will wage this “war” to take back our government from the special interests and restore the hard-earned rights of all Hoosier workers.’

In total, the Indiana State AFL-CIO represents more than 300,000 working Hoosiers.

In a recent poll, Hoosiers overwhelmingly support a public referendum on the controversial ‘right to work’ legislation and are unhappy with the Indiana General Assembly’s rush to pass it.

Among the survey’s finding were that only one-third of Indiana voters currently favour passage of a so-called ‘right to work’ law, while 69 per cent say that the Indiana General Assembly should slow down the process to allow more debate.

The poll also found that an overwhelming 71 per cent of respondents want to give voters – not the legislature – the final say on this controversial legislation.

Hart Research Associates conducted the statewide telephone survey among a representative cross section of 500 registered Indiana voters on January 14 and 15, 2012.

Specifically, the poll found that:

• Only one-third of Indiana voters favour passage of so-called ‘right to work,’ and 69 per cent reject Republican plans to pass it.

• Just one-third (33 per cent) of Indiana voters currently favour ‘right to work,’ while a 36 per cent plurality oppose the law, and 30 per cent have no opinion on the issue.

• More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of voters agree with Democrats that the legislature should provide more time for the public to learn about and debate ‘right to work’ before making a final decision, while just 27 per cent support Republican efforts to pass it.

Hoosiers believe that the voters, not the legislature, should have the final say on this issue.

• While voters may be divided about the wisdom of so-called ‘right to work,’ there is overwhelming support for deciding the issue through voter referendum rather than in the legislature.

Hoosiers want to slow this process down because public understanding of ‘right to work’ remains limited, the issue is not considered a high priority, and they are suspicious of Republicans’ focus on the issue.

• Indiana voters suspect that Republican efforts to push ‘right to work’ through the legislature are more about politics than policy. A plurality of voters (44 per cent) believe that Republicans are making ‘right to work’ their top priority more for political reasons to weaken labour unions and Democrats, while just 35 per cent feel it is because Republicans truly believe it will create jobs and strengthen the economy.