Workers protesting in Indiana.
by Felix Perez
Never mind that more than 285,000 residents are looking for work and that public schools are trying to minimize harm to students from a $300 million, two-year budget cut. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and his allies in the state legislature have decided that their No. 1 priority this legislative session is to enact a so-called right-to-work law that research shows will lower the average worker’s wages by $1,500 a year.
The Indiana General Assembly, which opened January 3, is fast-tracking the bill, holding its first hearing January 6. The legislature is controlled by a group of extreme lawmakers that tried to pass right-to-work legislation last year. Tens of thousands of state residents flooded the state Capitol last winter in opposition to the bill, charging it would diminish their right to collectively bargain for middle class wages and benefits and safe working conditions.
On January 4, Daniels abruptly walked back his ill-fated plan to cap citizen visits to the statehouse and the right to assemble. Last week, the State Police implemented a 3,000-person limit at the statehouse. With roughly 1,700 statehouse employees and lobbyists there daily, that would have left room for 1,300 people.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reports on the attack by Indiana Republican politicians against worker and union rights through a “right to work” proposal.
Despite a promotional media blitz during the past several weeks by Daniels and legislative leaders, their right-to-work bill has not generated public support. A survey by Ball State University found that that nearly three-quarters of Hoosiers either are undecided about the issue (48%) or oppose the legislation (24%).
The Economic Policy Institute, in a study issued January 3, found advocates’ claims about generating jobs and raising wages are “completely without scientific foundation.”
Opponents of the bill, which they “call right to work for less,” say Daniels and the legislature are overreaching to amass political power and punish those who don’t agree with them. They compare Daniels to two other anti-worker governors, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
In an earlier study, the Economic Policy Institute states that “RTW laws lower wages for union and non-union workers by an average of $1,500 a year and decrease the likelihood employees will get health insurance or pensions through their jobs.”
Keep up on what’s happening in Indiana and other states–sign up for EdVotes!