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Indiana Democrats Return to Work, with Right to Work Bill Poised for Passage

It looks like the attempted holdout against right to work legislation in Indiana has collapsed, though we cannot yet be sure. What we do know is that the House Democrats agreed to return to work today, ending a three-day boycott.

House Democratic leader Pat Bauer said the three-day boycott by most Democrats last week gave them a chance to circulate information about the measure around Indiana.

Republicans hold a 60-40 majority in the Indiana House, which needs a quorum of two-thirds of its members to be brought to order. With 98 representatives present on Monday, the bill was assigned to a committee for discussion Tuesday.

That committee, the Indiana House Labor Committee, has planned a vote on right to work tomorrow morning. The only hope for this is that the House Democrats have determined that they made the bill too hot to handle, but I would doubt it. Last year they stuck it out until right-to-work was taken off the calendar. Not so this year. And Republicans are gearing up to pass this thing as swiftly as possible, perhaps by the end of the week, according to Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma. Bosma needs 51 votes in the 100-vote chamber and has 60 Republicans, so he could lose up to 9 members and still pass the bill.

Indiana would become the 23rd right-to-work state in the country, but the first state in the industrial Midwest. Most of the other right-to-work states are in the South and West. Under right-to-work, employees do not have to join unions or pay dues as a condition of working at a business, and the union cannot take dues directly out of employee paychecks. This has the effect of severely weakening private sector unions, and typically the arrangement has led to lower wages for workers. Critics call it “right to work for less.” No state has passed right-to-work in over a decade.

Bauer did add that Democrats would return to work “just for today”. Perhaps they are coming back for a day, only to leave for two, stopping the onerous fines that result from three straight days of absences. But we’ll have to see.

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David Dayen

David Dayen