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Deal Allows Vote in Indiana on Right-to-Work

There’s a deal in place to at least slow down but not stop the right-to-work bill making its way through the Indiana legislature. The deal will ensure a vote on right-to-work next week, and as passage is expected, it’s hard to describe this as a victory for labor or their allies.

The House will vote next week on “right to work” legislation after the Republican leader negotiated a truce that keeps Democrats in their seats […]

Democrats, trying to stall the bill, have boycotted the House four of the six days it has been in session this year. They were especially riled by the way Republicans muscled the bill through a committee, refusing to let Democrats amend the bill.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he watched video of the hearing and concluded it “did not reflect democracy’s finest hour,” though no rules were broken. Still, Bosma said he reached out to House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, on Wednesday “to see if we couldn’t find something to calm people down.”

The olive branch: giving Democrats more time to prepare amendments by scheduling them for Tuesday, with full debate and a vote on the bill later next week.

Republicans have a large majority in the House and Senate, and so can easily beat back amendments if they so choose. An amendment to exempt building trades unions from the changes, first suggested by a Republican House member, may get passage, but other than that I’d be surprised if anything but the right-to-work text passed.

Meanwhile a Ball State professor released a study claiming that right-to-work would not affect wages in Indiana, although it wouldn’t create jobs either – a key element of the Republican pitch. Wage studies from other right-to-work states show a clear correlation between the presence of such a law and reduced wages for similar work. It’s also at odds with the testimony of workers in Oklahoma, the last right-to-work state:

Jesse Isbell worked at the Oklahoma City Bridgestone tire plant for 36 years before it shut down and moved operations to Mexico. He says Right to Work made the work environment at the plant more difficult as union members worked alongside those who chose not to pay any fees.

“This not only impacted employee morale, it affected productivity, profitability and the quality of the operations at our plants,” Isbell says.

Protesters have been a constant presence at the state Capitol in Indianapolis, booing Mitch Daniels at his State of the State address, among other actions. Today they are marching to Lucas Oil Stadium, home of this year’s Super Bowl, in thanks for the NFL Player’s Association putting out a statement opposing right-to-work.

Sadly, all of this looks to be going for naught. There’s still a chance that public pressure leads to a stalled vote next week, but frankly, that’s not likely. Indiana appears to be on a path to becoming a right-to-work state.

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David Dayen

David Dayen