INDIANAPOLIS – A GOP scheme to make Indiana into a so-called “Right to Work” state, crippling unions by allowing thousands of workers to be freeloaders, has reared its head in the Hoosier State – again.

A joint legislative Interim Committee on Employment Issues, after the last of four public hearings on Oct. 26, recommended the legislature enact right to work in 2012.

State AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott wasn’t surprised. She called the panel’s decision pre-ordained, despite evidence amassed against right to work, because a committee majority had introduced or supported it “prior to the first hearing.”

“Clearly, their minds were made up before this process began and nothing, not even the facts or testimony from workers, small business owners or community leaders, would sway them from it,” Guyott said.

The panel took no position on another GOP anti-worker idea, outlawing project labor agreements on state-funded construction. Both right-to-work and the PLA ban are part of the nationwide Big Business-GOP war on workers.

After the GOP took over the Indiana legislature in the 2010 election, the right-wingers tried to push “right to work” through this year. Gov. Mitch Daniels, R-Ind., no friend of unions, stopped them temporarily. He said controversy over right to work would imperil the rest of the GOP program, such as handing out taxpayer-paid vouchers for private school tuition to every Indiana student. Lawmakers then set up the panel.

“Based on the principles of freedom of speech and association, individuals should be able to choose whether or not to associate with unions,” the legislators said. “RTW would guarantee the rights of freedom of speech and association.

“The committee finds RTW would be an important competitive tool for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and local economic development organizations to attract new jobs and to retain existing jobs. During site selection, businesses often show a preference for RTW states, and exclude Indiana and other non-RTW states from consideration because of a perceived lack of flexibility and higher costs in their potential dealings with organized labor,” the panel contended.

Guyott called that balderdash, putting it politely. She also promised the state fed would again fight the right-to-work scheme, noting that out-of-state interests push it.

“Those advocating ‘right to work,’ most of whom were not from Indiana, never presented a single concrete piece of evidence that would support their claims of economic salvation. Meanwhile, hundreds of Hoosiers, including workers, businesses owners, members of the clergy, community group members, and locally elected officials came to the Statehouse to testify against this measure,” she noted.

The hearings were so jammed and witness lists so long that many workers who wanted to testify against the GOP scheme never got the chance, Guyott pointed out.

“Ample evidence was presented that proves these” right to work “laws have actually lowered wages in states that have them and have brought zero economic benefit. Independent researchers and academics from around Indiana and the nation agree that passing this law is a bad idea.

“‘Right to work’ laws strip workers of their right to determine their own fate by voting and are designed to impair workers’ ability to join together to collectively bargain for wages and working conditions. As a result, not only do wages fall, but working conditions, safety, and overall quality of life suffer as workers lose their workplace rights.”

The state lawmakers’ committee ignored that evidence, choosing to believe “unsubstantiated rhetoric and not facts” and “hearsay above reason. And it has chosen to put corporate greed over economic opportunity for all,” Guyott concluded.



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.