Indiana News

Why Is "Right-To-Work" So Controversial?


House Minority Leader Pat Bauer and state Democrats continue to oppose right-to-work legislation.  ( photo: Liz Thomas)

The "right-to-work" bill is quickly creating the most waves inside the Indiana Statehouse, but why is the issue so controversial?


Even though similar legislation has been introduced since 2004, this marks the first time Gov. Mitch Daniels has backed it as one of his top priorities. And with a Republican-majority Indiana General Assembly, it's more likely to pass into law.

In place in 22 states, right-to-work laws bar private unions from collecting mandatory fees. In states without the laws, employees at unionized workplaces generally have to pay such fees.

The bill's sponsor, State Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel), claims the bill is simply about freedom for individual employees to decide whether they want to associate with a union.

"If I came over while you were on vacation and painted your house white and green, would you pay it?" Torr said.

But opponents have long argued the bill will would bust unions and their ability to advocate for workers' rights and salaries.

House Minority Leader Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) accuses Republicans of trying to "slam-bam" the legislation through the assembly. He says a non-partisan poll shows that half of Indiana residents don't understand the issue.

"Let's look at the Bowen poll named after a Republican governor," Bauer said. "They say people don't know what right-to-work is."

Democrats are organizing five regional hearings on "right-to-work," with two planned in Evansville and Fort Wayne this weekend.

Bauer says his caucus hasn't decided whether it will report to the House floor Friday.

"We'll see tomorrow what that will bring."

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) has threatened to start hitting Democrats with $1,000-a-day fines for stalling legislative work, but he hasn't decided when to start to implementing them.

If the bill passes, Indiana would become the first right-to-work state in the country's traditional manufacturing belt.


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