Indianapolis Business Journal Staff

EDITORIAL: Right-to-work issue will cause legislative gridlock

November 26, 2011

With Indiana Republican leaders targeting right-to-work legislation as their top priority in 2012, we worry about the fate of other issues that should have long ago risen to the top of the heap.

If Republicans can push through right to work, Indiana would join about half of the states—most in the West and South—that prohibit workers from being forced to join or otherwise support a union.

We’re not necessarily against that, but by targeting the same polarizing issue that brought the 2011 session to a grinding halt, Republican legislators put at risk other issues that have been rattling around the Statehouse for years: local government reform, transportation funding and a statewide smoking ban.

All those issues have, in the past, been able to draw some level of bipartisan support, which offers hope that progress could be made absent an issue as emotionally charged as right to work.

We’d hate to see them become casualties in a drawn-out battle over right to work, but that seems increasingly likely if the Republicans insist on making it the centerpiece of their 2012 legislative package.

Unfortunately, the other issues—important as they are to the state’s future—are too easy for politicians to ignore.

Reforming local government seems like a no-brainer. Why not consolidate certain functions to save money and, in the process, unlock piles of cash amassed by township officials who operate with little oversight?

We know legislators are reluctant to consolidate away some of the same local officials who support them politically, but making reform a top priority instead of a bit player in the session might produce some results. The governor should dust off the 4-year-old Kernan-Shepard report on streamlining local government and make it a priority.

Public transportation advocates also have been waiting patiently for the Legislature to allow local referendums
so voters can determine for themselves, county by county, whether to support a dedicated source of funds for transit.

On the smoking front, every year that passes without a comprehensive workplace smoking ban puts Indiana further behind other states in protecting public health.

Efficient government, diverse transportation infrastructure and a healthier work force are all good for economic development. These issues aren’t without controversy, but compared with right to work they are relatively drama-free. Legislators should address them instead of lighting the fuse on another explosive session.



Fort Wayne News Sentinel

Indiana government can't document claimed right-to-work losses

By Bob Caylor
The top state economic-development agency can't provide documentation or statistics to back up Gov. Mitch Daniels' assertion that a fourth to half of companies don't give Indiana a shot at new business because it lacks a right-to-work law. Instead, this figure comes from impressions conveyed by site-selection consultants.

On Thursday, Daniels announced that he supports enacting a right-to-work law in Indiana. Such a law would prohibit requiring workers from paying union dues as part of their employment in a union-represented business. The number of businesses that refuse to consider non-right-to-work states was at the heart of Daniels' argument for the law.

In a statement announcing his support for right-to-work, Daniels said, “Seven years of experience at our Indiana Economic Development Corp. has confirmed what every economic development expert tells us: Despite our top-ranked business climate, Indiana gets dealt out of hundreds of new job opportunities because we have no right-to-work law. … between a quarter and a half of the time, we don't make the first cut, due to this single handicap.”

On Friday, Katelyn Hancock, a spokeswoman for the IEDC, said that by law, details of the state's negotiations with prospective employers are not public records. She also noted, “A lot of times, a company isn't going to call us up and say, ‘We didn't look at you because you don't have right-to-work.' ”

In a follow-up email, Hancock added, “Based on numerous conversations with site-selection consultants that the IEDC works with directly on a daily basis, we know that Indiana loses new job and investment opportunities between a quarter and a half of the time because we are not a right-to-work state. This is what they consistently tell us.”

Those impressions are not precisely reckoned by site-selection consultants. One site-selection consultant, Katie Culp of Cassidy Turley Real Estate Services, did tell a state study committee that met earlier this year that one-third to half of industrial clients exclude non-right-to-work states from consideration. Other consultants cited by the IEDC were much less specific, saying right-to-work deters some prospects or that Indiana's lack of a right-to-work law has kept it out of the running in some cases.

The IEDC provided only one example of a business that cited right-to-work as a factor that might steer it away from Indiana.

Jay Pittas of Remy Inc. in Pendleton told the study committee in October that his company “is in the process right now of making some site selections for additional manufacturing capacity, specifically to make hybrid traction motors. Right now we are down to four final sites. If we look at the states that are left, Indiana is one of them…and the other three states are Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Right to Work does score against Indiana. I heard a question asked, ‘Would a company stand up [and speak to this issue]?' Well, I'm one.”


Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
December 18, 2011

Work in progress

Union bill poised to dominate in legislature

Indiana’s Republican lawmakers have no holiday surprise in store for Hoosiers. Their very public wish list for 2012 is topped by a right-to-work bill, and the contentious debate ahead ensures it will be the defining issue for the upcoming session.

Republican lawmakers have made no secret of their intention to make Indiana the 23rd right-to-work state. And on the other side, labor representatives have made it clear they will fight to prevent it. Their protests already have stirred interim study committee debate and the legislature’s Organization Day. Laborers will greet lawmakers with another protest on Jan. 4.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, says the issue isn’t about busting unions.

“It’s about the cold, hard reality of jobs, and the fact that Indiana is losing too many opportunities to bring more jobs to our state because we do not have a right-to-work law,” he says in a commentary on Page 12A.

But State Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne, said the issue wasn’t as simple as jobs.

“It is a complex issue that many people don’t understand,” he said, “The term ‘right to work’ confuses them because they think they ought to be able to do that. But when you explain that wages are essentially established at union levels and go down from there, then the light goes on.”
The supporters’ case

A right-to-work law doesn’t guarantee anyone a job; instead it prohibits union membership and dues payment as a condition of employment. Supporters insist a union shop rule, which requires all employees to pay dues if they are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, is a deterrent to job creation.

Gov. Mitch Daniels issued a statement in support of a right-to-work bill on Thursday. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has made the issue its top legislative priority, as have the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana.

John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, told the audience at a legislative preview conference in Indianapolis last week that officials in the 10-county region feel so strongly about the advantage of right-to-work status they they’ve offered to serve as a pilot region “if this doesn’t go right for the state.” He cited northeast Indiana’s 30-year decline in per-capita income.

Sampson even suggested that the issue was so important that it was “worth a non-civil discussion” in the upcoming session.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state’s lead economic development agency, adopted a resolution supporting a right-to-work bill last week. A spokeswoman for the IEDC cited Remy International when asked to name a company that would choose a right-to-work state over Indiana.

John Weber, Remy’s president and CEO, confirmed that was the case.

“You would never say never, but it would be very hard to see a set of circumstances that would overcome that when there are alternatives that are not far away that offer the same amenities, that would offer the same tax environment.” he said. “To us, frankly this is not pro- or con-union; it’s about our employees’ right to choose. Why would we impose that on them?”

Remy has operations across the globe, including plants in China, Brazil, Hungary and the United Kingdom. Its U.S. operations include plants in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Virginia, as well as Anderson and Peru, Ind.

Weber, who once worked at General Electric in Fort Wayne, said he would like to consider Indiana for a large plant Remy is planning to open, but wouldn’t “until we get this fixed.”

“I’m not from Indiana, but I’m a fan of Indiana. I think it’s a terrific place to do business. The governor has done a fabulous job. … It’s a great place for our employees to live, and I would love to have the opportunity to invest further in the state, but that’s a barrier.”
Opposing views

Not everyone agrees. Labor unions constitute the loudest voice against right-to-work, of course. They insist its passage will drive down wages and benefits, and there’s evidence supporting their case. A February study by the Economic Policy Institute, controlling for demographic and socioeconomic variables, found that wages in right-to-work states were 3.2 percent lower than in non-right-to-work states. The average full-time, full-year worker in a right-to-work state earns about $1,500 less annually. EPI is a left-leaning institute generally favorable to organized labor but is well-respected for the reliability of its research.

Likewise, the rate of employer-sponsored health insurance is 2.6 percent lower in right-to-work states, according to the study, and employer-sponsored pensions are 4.8 percentage points lower there.

Union officials also point to unemployment rates, noting that right-to-work states have fared generally the same as other states during the economic downturn. Seven of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rates in June were right-to-work states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, including Nevada, with an unemployment rate of 12.4 percent.

Nancy Guyott, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, noted Thursday that Indiana created more manufacturing jobs from 2009 to 2011 than all of the Midwestern right-to-work states combined.

The pilot-project approach that the regional partnership’s Sampson suggested for northeast Indiana is a tactic that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has tried elsewhere, according to Guyott. Furthermore, the region’s success in job creation is well known.

“There’s plenty of data out there how northeast Indiana stands right now. It’s either one of the best or the best poised for jobs,” Guyott said. “To offer it up as a potential pilot is specious at best.”

Morton Marcus, former director of the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University, dismisses the entire right-to-work debate as unnecessary.

“It’s largely an attempt by people who have long-term hostilities toward unions to stomp down on them,” he said. “Right-to-work deals largely with labor, representing under 10 percent of Indiana’s workforce. Right-to-work laws have not been a factor in the location of the Honda plant in Greensburg. They have not been a factor in location of the Toyota plant in Princeton, and General Motors exists in Fort Wayne without the benefit of right-to-work.”

Marcus said that in his 40 years of work as an Indiana economist, he had never heard of a company that refused to locate here for that reason.

“Some would prefer not to deal with unions, but if you are in the auto industry, you know that’s the reality,” he said. “To me, all of this is a big fight over a small issue. The fact that the IEDC can find only one company as an example proves it.”
What’s ahead

Regardless, the battle is set to begin next month. Ironically, it coincides with Indianapolis’ Super Bowl moment, where the star attraction will be 100-plus NFL players’ union members.

With a 37-13 GOP majority in the Senate and a 60-40 Republican House majority, there is little the minority party can do to stop the bill, according to Moses.

“We will protest,” he said. “The number of constituents who contact their legislators is important.”

Legislation approved at session’s end this past year will restrict House Democrats from staging another weeks-long walkout, but they can stall the process.

“We will be very deliberate and considerate in our proceedings,” Moses said. “The new rules allow different tactics than have been allowed in the past. … We’ll see how the bill is constructed.”

The real restraint for Republicans, however, will be the November election.

“This has not been discussed in an election season,” Moses said. “The labor rallies will continue and the people coming down (to protest) are only part of it. They only begin to reflect the strong feelings people have on this.”

The right-to-work bill’s momentum is also fueled by an assumption that everyday Hoosiers support it. House Speaker Brian Bosma awkwardly made that assertion at the legislative preview Thursday, just minutes after Ball State University officials presented poll results showing just 27 percent of Hoosiers support right-to-work, while 48 percent have no opinion or are undecided.

“Clearly, neither side on this issue has closed the deal,” said Ray Scheele, co-director of the Bowen Center for Public Affairs. “There is a lot of persuasion left to do.”

If Hoosiers haven’t reached consensus on right to work, there at least are other views on what’s needed to help the state’s 275,000 unemployed. Democratic lawmakers have offered their own jobs legislation: a “work sharing” bill that gives employers an alternative to layoffs by evening out economic slow periods. Affected employees would receive a portion of the unemployment benefit they would receive if laid off. Similar programs in 22 states have shown success.

Marcus has his own idea for economic development.

“I think one of the first things I would do is work on starting a combined program out of IU and Purdue and any other interested institution to improve the management of Indiana corporations,” he said. “The real problem is not our labor teams, but our management. My experience with Indiana firms is they are fundamentally content.”

He even offered an example – a Fort Wayne-area firm that a decade ago was still using draftsmen to design its products.

“It wasn’t using CAD (computer-assisted design), as everyone else was doing,” he said. “It took a student at IPFW pointing out to his father that it just wasn’t productive to do it that way. That’s blindness on the part of management.

“That’s the kind of legislative program I could get behind,” Marcus said. “Let’s send our managers back to school.”


Right to Work is more about politics than jobs

INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Mitch Daniels and Republican legislative leaders say that with the unemployment rate continuing to hover at an unacceptably high 9 percent, we need "every tool available" to attract jobs. Thus, the Right to Work legislation has become the No. 1 issue heading into the 2012 General Assembly short session.

Thursday afternoon, Gov. Daniels endorsed the legislation. "After a year of study and reflection, I have come to agree that it is time for Indiana to join the 22 states which have enacted right to work laws. Right to work says only that no worker can be forced to pay union dues in order to keep a job. Lack of that simple freedom to choose costs some workers money they’d rather keep, but it also costs something even larger: countless middle-class jobs that would come to Indiana if only we provided right to work protection. Seven years of experience at our Indiana Economic Development Corporation has confirmed what every economic development expert tells us: despite our top-ranked business climate, Indiana gets dealt out of hundreds of new job opportunities because we have no right to work law. When a business allows us to compete, we win two-thirds of the time. But between a quarter and a half of the time, we don’t make the first cut, due to this single handicap. Knowing how many additional jobs we could be capturing is what has persuaded me that we must enact this reform."

I'm not necessarily for or against Right to Work. But I have a propensity to call things the way they are. Like, if we have casinos in Indiana, they once had to be "riverboats" and developers had to dig inland moats to put them in. Stupid. Or, if marijuana is to be legal, it has to be "medical marijuana." Dumb.

While Right to Work is a tool in the job development box, this is what it really is: the final union-busting maneuver of the Daniels’ era. And Republicans can do it because, like a dog licking himself, he does it because he can.

Indiana Democrats became so vacuous, so devoid of ideas this past decade, and so mean at campaigning, that Hoosier Republicans have won two straight governor races, have a super majority in the Indiana Senate and a 60-40 majority in the Indiana House, with a good chance of making it a super majority next year.

That's what happens when you have a mind trust like House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer.

In the Daniels’ era, the GOP has systemically knocked out the supporting trusses of the Indiana Democratic Party. Secretary of State Todd Rokita created a statewide voter file to clamp down on redundant voting. When he was a federal District Attorney Joseph Van Bokkelen took on the Pastrick Lake Democratic machine with RICO laws and former Attorney General Steve Carter went after millions of casino-generated East Chicago's Second Century funds.

On his first full day in office, Gov. Daniels ended collective bargaining for state employees and watched as unionized membership tumbled by 90 percent. Daniels ended the personal license plate money that used to go to the political parties, costing Indiana Democrats $750,000 a year. Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock - with Gov. Daniels cheering him on - tried to stop the Chrysler/Fiat merger. If Chrysler and General Motors had collapsed, the United Auto Workers - one of the biggest funders and phone-bankers in Indiana gubernatorial politics for decades - would have been neutered.

Now the historic opportunity is to end mandatory union membership with Right to Work. My Democratic sources acknowledge that should this occur, union membership across the board could decrease in the 50 to 75 percent range. The UAW and the Indiana State Teachers Association - the massive funders of gubernatorial, Congressional and legislative campaigns in Indiana - won't have nearly the clout.

So there is a significant political component to Right to Work, and anyone who denies it has a bridge to sell you in the Arizona desert.

I have viewed unions and business organizations like the Indiana Chamber and the Indiana Manufacturers Association as bookends. Both have Political Action Committees that fund gubernatorial and legislative races. We’ve had competitive politics here because of that dynamic. If you're a Republican, Right to Work will crimp the unions and thus the Democratic Party. When they peer into the future, they envision a "Gov. Mike Pence" and two super majority legislative houses. In that scenario, you can kiss moderation goodbye.

Conversely, Right to Work could make unions better, and its leaders more responsive to their membership.

Now, why do I think Right to Work will be more like a little crescent wrench in the economic development tool box, as opposed to a power drill or a pneumatic nailer?

Because Indiana has seen its union membership drop over the last half century from the 40th percentile to about 10 percent today. And the jobs that Indiana is trying to grow and attract - life sciences, logistics, advanced manufacturing, orthopedics, agricultural science, nanotechnology, information technology - aren't unionized segments of the economy.

State Rep. Tom Dermody of LaPorte became one of the first Republicans to line up against the measure. He used the country club analogy, telling the Michigan City News-Dispatch, “It is as if the members pay dues because they want to use the golf course, but they let other people who don’t pay dues use the course too.” Companies seeking to relocate “want to know about taxes, about a competent workforce, about good schools,” Dermody said.

The Indiana Chamber counters by saying local officials never hear about such companies because they cross Indiana off the list without even exploring it.

I've heard many Republicans over the years say that true job creation comes from small businesses and homegrown companies like Conseco and Cook Group that began as little bitty startups and grew into Fortune 500 status. These types of companies don't tend to be unionized either.

The danger for Indiana Republicans is that personal income in Right to Work states declines. As is the middle class, with tens of thousands of Hoosier families falling from those ranks. Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg sees it as a classic “overreach.”

Right to Work is likely to pass next January. But it's more about politics than job creation.


South Bend Tribune
December 11, 2011

OUR OPINION: Sometimes a fight just isn't worth it

Just because you have the power to do something doesn't necessarily mean you should do it.

Last year, even Gov. Mitch Daniels advised his party against trying to force legislation that would weaken collective bargaining through the Indiana General Assembly.

Republicans in the legislature decided to try, anyway, and Democrats opted to decamp to Illinois. Though the GOP backed off of that bill, the disagreement morphed into a more general stalemate and lasted for almost six weeks, effectively shutting down the legislative session.

As this session looms, however, Republicans in both the House and Senate have declared "right-to-work" their top priority. Daniels is said to be mulling whether to support their stand, and Democrats again are beginning to talk of a walkout.

The debate over whether the state should insert itself into the process of collective bargaining is difficult, complex and full of unproved assumptions.

Republicans contend right-to-work law would attract business to the state. Quoting anecdotal evidence that companies routinely pass on Indiana because of its strong union tradition, they point to other states with right-to-work laws that seem to be doing well at attracting business. Though the GOP customarily argues for limited government, its legislators contend that Indiana should forbid companies and unions from requiring that non-union members share in the costs of union negotiations on their behalf.

Democrats argue that such a move would undermine unions' ability to represent and protect workers and ultimately threaten the very existence of collective bargaining. They say there's no hard evidence that businesses have passed on locating in Indiana because of the state's union laws. And they argue that even if such businesses appeared, they would feel empowered to offer lower wages and sparser benefits, minimizing the economic boost new jobs are meant to have on the economy and ultimately dragging down the general working climate.

Isn't it clear that the people of Indiana are of two minds on this issue?

Leading where many of the people will not follow, just because you have an edge on the key votes, can be a dangerous form of hubris. Taking a wrecking ball to organized labor in Indiana, with all of its institutions, traditions and loyal members, will bring deeper political polarization during an already politically divisive time. It makes it even more unlikely that Democrats and Republicans will begin to reach across the chasm and work together on a range of other issues that also are vital to Hoosiers' well-being.

If the right-to-work concept truly was the magic solution to Indiana's economic downturn, there might be a case for the predictably savage battle that enacting such legislation would require. Too many people aren't convinced that this is the right course, or that if it is, that the battle would be worth the cost.

The Republican majority in the General Assembly should stand down on this fight, again this year, in deference to an essential premise of democracy -- being in the majority does not give you carte blanche to ignore the minority.


Bedford Times-Mail
November 22, 2011

Our opinion: Address real Hoosier needs

Today is Organization Day for the General Assembly, and lawmakers already are going astray.
On Monday, the General Assembly’s Republican leaders announced making Indiana a right-to-work state will be their top priority for the 2012 session.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, will co-author the bill. The proposal would prohibit workers from being required to pay union representation fees, even if those groups represent them in negotiations and other areas.

Less than an hour later, House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said Democrats would try to stop the bill.

You might remember last session’s right-to-work fiasco. It prompted Democrats to launch a five-week walkout, putting a halt to the General Assembly.

The issue splits the political parties and their supporters into fairly clear camps.

Business leaders like right-to-work legislation. They say Indiana needs it to compete for thousands of jobs.

Union leaders dislike right-to-work legislation. They say it leads to lower wages and less economic growth. They point to states like Oklahoma, which became a right-to-work state in 2001 and has seen manufacturing jobs decline each year since.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mitch Daniels continues to tout statistics that show Indiana already ranks near the top in various lists of business-friendly states, even without the right-to-work law his party embraces.
We foresee lawmakers lighting another political firefight based on the priorities of politicians and their strongest supporters. And we foresee it leading mainly to more negative political ads, to be used in those districts that see real contests for Statehouse seats.

Rather than heading down this path, we’d prefer our lawmakers focus on real Hoosiers’ priorities. They could do that if they would put down the partisan flamethrowers for just one session.

We’ll offer just two clear needs, both left over from the last session, that could be addressed in a rational and calm fashion.

Sentencing rules: Indiana spends millions on prisons and packs local jails to the brim, mostly to house low-level offenders. But we still fall short in our fight against crime. State officials estimated that a reform proposed last year could save $1.2 billion in new prison construction over the next seven years, while providing services for low-level offenders. Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, summed it up well: “I believe we can make more efficient use of tax dollars by focusing prison time on those we’re afraid of and not just those with whom we are angry.” We agree. Many others do, too. Yet our lawmakers failed to act.

Local governments: Study after study, and news story after news story, have questioned why Indiana taxpayers must pay for thousands of local officials — at least part of township governments come to mind — that have less and less to do. Simple and genuine proposals have come out of studies like the Kernan-Shepard report. Some lawmakers and the governor’s office had some suggestions, too. Yet our lawmakers failed to act.

If the lawmakers get embroiled in another right-to-work political bloodbath, they’ll fail to act this year, too.


Post Tribune of Northwest Indiana
Nov. 25, 2011

Indiana doesn’t need right-to-work legislation
By Rich James

When the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 4, the eyes of the nation may well be on Indiana.
Not because the state remains the best in the nation when it comes to high school basketball, but because there will be an unwarrated attack upon organized labor.

The Republicans, who do the bidding of corporations and other businesses, will seek the passage of a right-to-work bill.

The bill would force organized labor to represent workers who refuse to pay union dues.
The bill also would be a significant step by Republicans to destroy the unions that built America.

The Republicans say right-to-work will clear the way for additional businesses to relocate to Indiana.
Those are the very same businesses that have no desire to deal with unions. They want to drive down workers’ wages and increase corporate profits and power.

Statistics show the average worker in a right-to-work state makes about $5,333 a year less than workers in other states.

Twenty-one percent more people in right-to-work states don’t have health insurance.
And the list goes on.

Do Republicans care? Of course not, although they will try to tell you otherwise. And they wonder why they can’t get the union vote.

Republicans contend corporations have shipped jobs overseas because of the cost of dealing with unions. Don’t buy it. It’s about greed.

Republicans also will tell you that Democrats oppose right to work because of the money that unions contribute to their party.

While there is truth to that, there is a bigger issue involved here.

It is about quality of life for the middle class — a group that has been declining in numbers because of attacks like the one planned by Republican legislators.

The CEO of a company may take up residence on the top floor, but it’s the union folks who laid the bricks, hammered the nails and ran the electricity and plumbing that made it all possible.

Unions aren’t perfect, but they provide quality craftsmanship and are an integral part of a community.
Gov. Mitch Daniels keeps boasting that Indiana is one of the most attractive states in the country for new business.

If that in fact is the case, and I have no reason to doubt it, why the push for right-to-work?
I guess the easy answer is that they can. Republicans control the House and Senate and the governor’s office.

Some say the Republicans want to eliminate the voice of the working man from the political process. Hard to argue against that.

When Republicans introduced legislation to do the same thing early this year, some Democrats walked out for five weeks, preventing a quorum. The bill died.

Might the Democrats skip out again? It’s possible, but I don’t think so. Walking out again might well work against the Democrats.

Staying in the Statehouse while Hoosiers from across Indiana rally in Indianapolis for several weeks could be a political plus for Democrats come November 2012.

And you can bet the vast majority of Hoosier teachers, who saw Republicans take away the majority of their bargaining rights earlier this year, will be at the fore when the unions take to the streets.

Might right to work lure a few more businesses to Indiana? Probably. Might they be worth it? Probably not.

So, why are Republicans going out of their way to rip the state apart when they don’t have to?

Money. Greed. And most of all — arrogance.


Post Tribune of Northwest Indiana
Oct 28, 2011

Our view: Anti-union ‘right-to-work’ bill should be shelved

It appears the table is being set for another contentious session of the Indiana General Assembly. It doesn’t have to be that way.

An interim study committee this week essentially said that it will revive “right-to-work” legislation.

The legislation would ban unions from requiring workers to join their ranks or pay dues.

Republicans said this week that a report compiled by the Legislature’s Interim Study Committee on Employment indicates that some businesses refuse to locate in Indiana because it is not a right-to-work state.

Right-to-work was one of the anti-labor issues that led some House Democrats to leave the state for five weeks earlier this year.

Democrats were noncommittal as to whether they would stage another walkout.

The easiest way to ensure that all legislators stay in Indianapolis is not to introduce the legislation.

Gov. Mitch Daniels earlier this year said Indiana could prosper without right-to-work. Daniels often boasts that Indiana is an attractive state for new business because of its favorable tax climate.

Unions look on right-to-work as a way to break up their organizations. They argue that workers can enjoy the benefits of union representation without paying any dues.

Studies indicate that wages, benefits and working conditions in right-to-work states are lower.

Unions rightfully see right-to-work as another assault on the working man. They are right and there’s no need for it.


Anderson Herald Bulletin
November 17, 2011

Editorial: Now is not the time for a right-to-work law

It looks as if Indiana legislators will reintroduce a right-to-work law when it convenes for its short session on Jan. 4. This is the issue that sent Democrats running for the hinterlands in the last session and there could very well be a repeat of that.

Right-to-work legislation is an anti-union measure that ensures that employees do not have to join a union or pay union dues. Nonunion employees, however, will reap the benefits of union-employer contracts, which normally mean higher wages and benefits. By letting employees stay out of the union, the reduced strength in numbers weakens a union’s ability to collectively bargain with employers.

The end result is less union activity and less money to fuel unions during political campaigns.

Right-to-work advocates contend that businesses creating jobs will flock to right-to-work states because wages and benefits will be lower. Pro-union activists call such laws the right to work for less.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that right-to-work states, 22 of 50, create more jobs than union-friendly states. According to the Washington Post, which crunched the numbers, that’s the case. The newspaper also noted that those figures don’t prove that right-to-work laws help attract jobs.

“Romney’s analysis also fails to recognize that factors other than union policy can affect employment numbers. Jared Berstein, a former Labor Department economist and a senior fellow with the left-leaning Center on Budget Policies and Priorities, said other variables affect the job-growth equation, including natural resources, infrastructure, work-force quality, location, standard of living, schools, tax rates and other policy decisions not related to unionization,” wrote the Post.

Oklahoma, for example, became a right-to-work state in 2001 and has seen manufacturing jobs decline there every year since. The Post concluded that right-to-work laws aren’t solely responsible for job growth.

Two results of a right-to-work law seem certain: More jobs will be created and they will pay less. States are in a bind and feel they must pass these laws because they are in competition with other states. But as the Post noted, “lower labor standards and wages associated with non-union jobs do not necessarily correlate with employment growth. If that was the driving factor ... companies would simply move abroad instead of crossing state borders.”

Earlier this month, Ohio voters rejected their legislature’s law restricting collective bargaining. So it might make Indiana lawmakers pause to consider passing something as controversial as a right-to-work law. After last winter’s union demonstrations in Wisconsin and Ohio to protest draconian anti-labor bills, public opinion seems to be swinging toward unions.

The numbers also show this doesn’t seem to be an issue worth serious consideration except for strictly political purposes.

Union representation in Indiana is only 10.9 percent, about in the middle of all states. New York is high at 24 percent, and North Carolina, a right-to-work state, is lowest at 3.2 percent. This hardly seems to be important for future job growth. Large Japanese auto manufacturers that have come into Indiana have been nonunion, as was Nestle here in Anderson. Big companies aren’t worried about being saddled with high labor costs in Indiana.

Passing a right-to-work law would seem to be rubbing salt into labor’s open wound. Besides, it could wind up backfiring on Republicans. This is not the time to consider such a law.


Elkhart Truth

Truth Editorial: Is right-to-work worth another walk-out?

The hot-button debate in the 2011 Indiana General Assembly was right-to-work legislation.

It was one of the main issues that drove Democrats from the Statehouse to Urbana, Ill., for five weeks in a self-imposed exile. It brought work to a halt and pushed other important legislation off the docket for the session.

And it appears that right-to-work will make a return visit in the 2012 Legislature, possibly this time with the blessing of Indiana’s lame-duck governor, Mitch Daniels. He opposed even its debate during the last session because he wanted his education agenda passed.

Daniels also wanted to see the issue studied and discussed first. Since then, it’s gone through an interim study committee and passed — not surprisingly — on a party-line vote. The governor said recently, “I think it’s highly likely from talking to legislators it will be in front of this next General Assembly and it has, as I thought it should, been researched, debated and vetted for a year. And I think they believe it’s appropriate to bring it forward.”

Not atypically, Daniels won’t take the lead. But that doesn’t mean he won’t support the measure once legislators introduce it. He’s just hanging back for now.

Right-to-work would keep private-sector unions and businesses from mandating union membership or dues.

Some Republicans, including House Speaker Brian Bosma, believe it’s a way to address the state’s unemployment rates. Daniels has said businesses won’t considering moving to Indiana because of its labor laws. State Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, is behind a measure expected to come before the Senate with State Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus.

But the state has a lot going for it: Good infrastructure; relatively low taxes; excellent logistics; a well-trained and available workforce; open industrial and commercial buildings; and local and state economic development incentives. Those should be the overriding factors in helping a business decide to locate in Indiana.

No state is perfect.

Is the economic development argument strong enough to risk disrupting the entire legislative process?

Undoubtedly there will be other important issues that should be addressed in the short session of the General Assembly, especially how to help local governments struggling because of the economy and tax caps.

Giving workers choice when it comes to union representation is important. But are unions far-reaching enough at this point to bring the Legislature to a screeching halt for the second year in a row, particularly when small business is supposed to be the backbone of the state’s economy?


Indianapolis Recorder
Thursday, November 10, 2011

Push for right-to-work returns; but has it helped African-Americans?

Hearing that Gov. Mitch Daniels got pink toenails during his knee surgery was funny; but a comment he made to a Hoosier newspaper isn't funny to millions of Hoosiers; including thousands of African-Americans.

During this year's caustic legislative session, when Democrats were in exile in Illinois over the right-to-work issue, Daniels stood on the sidelines.
Not anymore.

Speaking to the editorial board of the Kokomo Tribune, Daniels said the lack of right-to-work "is costing the state opportunities to attract business."

Daniels praised a legislative study committee which examined the issue last month saying they "confirmed that the lack of right-to-work legislation is costing Indiana job opportunities."

Now, Daniels didn't tell the newspaper's readers that the legislative committee only accepted evidence from biased pro-business witnesses. Evidence showing that right-to-work laws lower wages and living standards for residents was rejected by the Republican-majority committee.

The right-to-work debate has been going on for years. Decades ago, Indiana was a right-to-work state, but a subsequent legislature repealed it.

Daniels, rabid legislative Republicans and many misguided Hoosiers believe right-to-work would help Indiana's economy and reverse falling incomes.

But despite reams of data the U.S. and Indiana Chambers of Commerce and the rabid rightwing supporters of right-to-work produce, there's one packet of statistics always missing.

Specifically how has right-to-work helped raise the incomes and standard of living of African-Americans?
It's a documented historical fact that union membership - especially in automotive, government workers, manufacturing - helped create and grow America's Black middle class, the men and women that put millions of African-Americans to work and put their kids through college.

So, here's my challenge to my governor, the poobahs at the State Chamber and the other sycophants for right-to-work. Show me your data. Show me your concrete empirical, statistical data that shows that right-to-work has helped raise the standards of living of African-Americans in right-to-work states. Where are the numbers? Where are the statistics? Where's the beef?

If you can show me concrete proof that right-to-work laws and policies have benefited African-American communities in this country, then I'll let Gov. Daniels paint my toenails pink. No joke!
I can stand the look if you can stand proving something you haven't yet been able to prove.

My toenails are waiting...


Indianapolis Star

No free lunch for their side
By Dan Carpenter

If you own a business and you don't want your employees to have to pay union dues, you might want to enlist in the fight by joining the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Just don't forget your membership dues.

It's only fair. The Chamber and kindred organizations offer a host of services to businesses, including lobbying on behalf of laws that make it easier for the constituency to turn a profit. You get what you pay for, and what enterprising Hoosier wants to be known as a free rider?

Well, now, that's a good question.

From the looks of things, the 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly will rumble with the resumption of last year's battle over the so-called right to work. And we don't mean restoration of that right to the 10 percent or so of us who are officially unemployed.

Right to work, as semantically co-opted by the employer side, means denial of the right now enjoyed by unions to enter into contracts under which every worker they represent must pay for their services.

As things stand now in Indiana, you don't have to join the union or pay dues in most workplaces. Those unions, where existent, still are legally obliged to go to bat for you at the bargaining table and in disciplinary situations. You get the benefits without paying a nickel toward your benefactor's expenses.
In some workplaces, on the other hand, the contract doesn't let anybody slide. All who work must pay, and if anybody finds that offensive to his delicate sense of individual merit, he can hold his nose and accept his protection and his Christmas gift card.

Again, this arrangement is not commonplace in Indiana. In nearly half the states, it doesn't exist at all. What the business lobby and the Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly want to do is join those states. Nothing against unions or collective bargaining, they insist; they just want to make Indiana more inviting to employers.

Cue the battle of the statistics. The right-to-work side will tell you non-union states have the highest growth rates. Labor will rejoin that union states pay better and enjoy a higher quality of life -- including, ahem, better schools.

Teachers, you remember, were the targets of last year's General Assembly assault on collective bargaining. That move by the Daniels administration and its allied legislature succeeded despite being one of the triggers of the Democratic walkout. Right-to-work was thrust in the Dems' faces as well, at least as a shot across the bow, though Gov. Mitch Daniels saw it as untimely in light of his education agenda. He hasn't tipped his hand about the 2012 session, but I've got my bet down.

Is it about the right to work? If it were, they wouldn't have to paint that name on its ugly forehead. It's about the worst kind of welfare and the wrong way to run a workplace, and its time appears to be upon us.


Indianapolis Star
Nov. 22, 2011

Break Up Pol’s Unions
By Dan Carpenter

Maybe Democrats ought to introduce a right-to-shirk bill, applicable only to state government.
The way it would work is, any taxpayer who did not care to pay for efforts undertaken on his behalf -- the salaries of the governor and legislators, say -- could simply opt out. If those public servants failed to make a strong enough case for voluntary contributions, they'd just have to go scratch.

How could House Speaker Brian Bosma, for instance, object? "The campaign for freedom," as he describes the Republican drive for right-to-work legislation, ought to extend to every citizen who doesn't want to pay for what he doesn't want to pay for.

Actually, when it comes to the job market, as opposed to the government monopoly, the bulk of Hoosiers already enjoy this precious freedom to freeload. Relatively few workplaces are unionized, and most of those that have collective bargaining do not require employees to pay dues for the expense the union goes to for them. Management is free to say yes or no; right-to-work laws, ironically, remove that freedom.

In sum, the measure that Gov. Mitch Daniels, Senate President David Long and Bosma have so coyly waited to unleash will have mainly symbolic value, buffing the red-meat credentials Indiana has been accumulating via anti-immigration laws, rabid gun promotion, vouchers for religious schools, opposition to health-care reform, the targeting of Planned Parenthood, stigmatization of gay people, voter IDs and, beginning with the governor's first days in office and continuing through last year's education "reforms," attacks on unions.

It's hard to see where any of it has enticed employers to pour into the state. After all, they're still looking at a populace that's overweight, undereducated and choking on cigarettes and coal fumes. But if Daniels, Bosma and Long want to preach that jobs stay away because of failure to write into law an open shop environment that already exists in practice, why would companies contradict them?

Like so much of the baldly partisan law that's been shoved through the Statehouse in recent years, right to work solves no problem in the real universe but instead creates new ones by antagonizing all sorts of folks, not only Democratic lawmakers, who might otherwise be enlisted to pursue the common good.
The naïve among us might ask, which would be more helpful on the majority's part: Considering the Democrats' long list of actual jobs bills, or daring them to pull another walkout?

Last time, Democrats got docked for their failure to carry out the public's business. Taking their cue, they might invite the voters to exact the same penalty on a party that spends its overwhelming power pursuing a national ideological template rather than Hoosier housekeeping. Aren't we all endowed with the unalienable right to shirk?


Times of Northwest Indiana
November 28, 2011

MARK KIESLING: Right-to-work puts politics over practicality

That pesky right-to-work bill just won't seem to go away. I'm not sure I know why, but I have a hunch.
My guess is that it is political, a chance for new Republican majorities in both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly to exercise their rights to bare their arms and flex their muscles.

Right-to-work legislation, just to clarify, says that even when an employee enters a closed union shop he or she would not have to join the union but would be entitled to any benefits the unions won.

Obviously this begs the question of why anyone in a right-to-work state, which are mostly in the South, would join a union. You can get a book at the library for free, but don't try that at Barnes & Noble unless you are looking for a free trip in a squad car.

There is no doubt that unions have abused their power during the past century. They traded on their legacy of getting vacations for workers, 40-hour work weeks and the abolition of child labor to become the mirror image of the capitalist fat cats they professed to despise.

But they lost a lot of their credibility by doing so. Union bosses became no more representatives of the working man or woman than the robber barons.

Yet there is something in the right-to-work movement that rings hollow.

Not atypically, the Republicans are coming down on the side of business and the Democrats on the side of labor. No shock there, we all understand.

Yet if this is just a power move by the new GOP majority, I think they've picked the wrong cause for which to go to the mat.

Why? Simply this. Indiana has been run for the past seven years by a Republican governor, Mitch Daniels. He has successfully brought new and high-paying businesses into Indiana during those years.

So the argument being put forth that right-to-work makes Indiana more attractive to business is almost a repudiation of Daniels' successes. Were he running again, which by law he cannot under term limits, I don't think he'd appreciate this at all.

In fact, he backed away from right-to-work last year when it first became such a hot button item and said there are more important things in Indiana to address.

Indiana's business climate is already business friendly, as I've said before. One needs only to compare Indiana's workers' compensation laws with those of, say, Illinois to see where the more amenable business climate lies.

Indiana's business climate already is attractive, as Daniels' success has shown. Are members of his own party now saying he could have done better?

Bet they wouldn't have said that to his face in an election year.


Post-Tribune of Northwest Indianaa
December 9, 2011

Right-to-work law would threaten labor’s share
By Daniel E. Saros Post-Tribune guest columnist

The right-to-work legislation being considered in the Indiana Legislature should be carefully considered by all Indiana working families.

The label makes it sound most appealing, but its consequences may be far different.

To make sense of the issue, it is helpful to reflect on the reason such legislation is controversial.

Consider the relationship between the owners of firms and the workers they hire. When workers produce valuable products and services with the tools and machines their employers make available to them, they create new value that is reflected in the prices of the resulting products.

From this newly created value are the wages paid to workers and the profits paid to employers. Workers and employers thus share a common interest in seeing that this newly produced value is as large as possible.

Unfortunately, their interests also are in conflict insofar as the share that flows to wages reduces the share that flows to profits.

Each side asserts a claim to the newly produced value: workers because their labor creates it and employers because they own the business, risk their capital and sometimes also participate in the work process. This division necessarily leads to tension and a struggle over the distribution of the newly produced value.

Historically, this tension fueled the labor movement in America and other nations. As in any market where buying and selling takes place, haggling over price is bound to result.

The labor market is unique, however, in that when a worker meets an employer, the balance of power typically is in the employer’s favor for several reasons.

First, the firm’s owners represent a unified entity from the start, whereas the worker is not automatically connected to other workers in the bargaining process.

Second, the state is the defender of property rights first and foremost, and the employer owns the business, so the employer receives the protection of the state.

Third, workers often live paycheck to paycheck, whereas employers frequently have more extensive resources from which to draw. All these factors raise the relative bargaining power of employers.
One way workers can counter this superior position is by joining together in a union and bargaining collectively. A problem arises, however, if some workers refuse to contribute to the costs of negotiation, even as they benefit from the bargaining process.

If workers decide to free-ride on the efforts of their fellow workers, then the union will weaken and workers may again be reduced to their inferior bargaining position.

Right-to-work laws, which exist in 22 states, make it illegal for unions to negotiate agreements in which nonunion members who benefit from the agreements are required to pay their share for acquiring such benefits.

If Indiana adopts a right-to-work law, then free-riding is likely to become a serious problem facing unions. The expected result will be weaker unions, lower wages and poorer working conditions.

Because research does not support the claim that right-to-work laws generate more rapid economic growth, the new value created in production cannot be expected to rise, so the collective interest of workers and employers will not be served, either.

Although right-to-work laws often are defended on the grounds they protect the liberty of the individual worker, they help ensure that employers will determine wages and conditions without any input from workers as a collective body.

These are the issues working families should consider as they evaluate the proposed right-to-work law.


Indianapolis Star
Dec. 9, 2011

Right-to-work fight will hurt other goals

If politics and ideology can be set aside, then the arguments for a right-to-work law in Indiana outweigh those against it.

But it's a close call.

It's so close in fact that supporters need to carefully consider whether the political fight that would be necessary to win the legislative battle is worth the cost. Those costs could include scuttling other priorities, such as a legislative vote on a mass transit system for Central Indiana, that will need bipartisan cooperation in the Statehouse this winter.

A sober analysis of the benefits and liabilities of the right-to-work proposal makes it clear that its passage would be neither the boon for economic development that proponents claim it would be nor the bane for employees that opponents fear.

Perhaps the best argument for a right-to-work law is philosophical in nature, a belief that Americans should have the freedom to make their own choices about what organizations they join and support financially.

In Indiana currently, in some places of employment, workers don't have that choice. They must join a union, and they must support the union with a portion of their salaries, in order to keep a job.
In 22 states with right-to-work laws, all workers now have the freedom to choose whether they want to join and support a union. Workers still can -- and many do -- join unions in right-to-work states. Unions can still organize in workplaces and negotiate contracts for their members (and for certain nonunion workers).

So right-to-work laws aren't the death warrants for unions that some opponents claim. Many employers, however, do like such proposals because they tend to dissuade union organizing in workplaces where a sizable portion of workers doesn't feel the need for outside representation. For example, a study released this year by researchers Ozkan Eren and Serkan Ozbeklik found that union membership dropped 15 percent in Idaho and Oklahoma, the two most recent states to pass right-to-work laws.
But what of supporters' claims that a right-to-work law is the jolt that Indiana's slumbering economy needs?

A summary of the research indicates that such a move could help Indiana attract a limited number of jobs in the manufacturing and logistical sectors. But right to work is just one factor in many, and the potential benefits shouldn't be oversold.

"Our results indicate that the passage of right-to-work laws in Oklahoma affected union membership and coverage rates and, possibly to some extent, foreign direct investment," wrote Eren and Ozbeklik in their 2011 study, "Right-to-Work Laws and State-Level Economic Outcomes. "As for manufacturing employment (in Oklahoma), per-capita income and average wage rates, we do not observe any impact. Our findings for Idaho, on the other hand, suggest that the laws increased the manufacturing employment, while it had no effect on per- capita income and are inconclusive for foreign direct investment."

For supporters, the good news from this study is that foreign investment may have increased in Oklahoma and manufacturing jobs likely increased in Idaho because of right to work, and that occurred without the loss in per-capita income and average wages that opponents claim is a side effect of such legislation. Research in other states tends to support those conclusions when geographic and historical factors are considered.

Still, it's a thin bit of new territory for Republicans in the Statehouse to go to war over. Right to work won't destroy unions in Indiana. But neither is it likely to be the strong economic catalyst that supporters envision.