The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 17, 2012

Indiana GOP embraces right-to-work

By The Building Tradesman

INDIANAPOLIS (PAI) – Indiana, thanks to its Radical Right GOP legislature and flip-flopping GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels, became the nation’s 23rd “Right to Work” state – and the first in the Great Lakes region – on Feb. 1.  Union leaders blasted the legislation, and predicted it’ll boomerang at the ballot box this fall.

The law, jammed through the legislature on party-line votes, deprives unions of the right to mandate collection of dues, or even “fair share” fees in contracts with employers.  That will let thousands of “free riders” take advantage of unions’ services without paying one thin dime for them.

The practical effect is to rob unions of money needed to represent workers.  But right-to-work laws have been a cause of the Radical Right for more than 60 years – as a way to destroy unions and reduce their ability to gain better livelihoods for workers.

Right to work “reflects an extreme partisan agenda that is all about payback to corporate donors, instead of creating good jobs for working families and fostering a middle-class economy,” said AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka. “Right to work’ policies don’t create jobs.  Study after study has shown they reduce wages, benefits, and safety for all working people – the last thing anyone needs in this economy.

“Working people are energized and will remember who stood with them and who stood with the 1 percent on Election Day,” he concluded.

How does neighboring Indiana’s passage of a RTW law bode for Michigan? One of the lead proponents of RTW to work in our state is Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake). “The longer we wait, the more of a disadvantage Michigan is,” he told MIRS News. “I am dismayed by the fact they beat us to it.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute, right-to-work laws:

* Reduce wages by $1,500 a year, for both union and nonunion workers, after accounting for different costs of living in the states.

* Lower the likelihood that employees get healthcare or pensions through their jobs – again, for both union and nonunion employees.

* Have no impact whatsoever on job or income growth. The EPI said for income, four of the five fastest-growing states in the country were non-RTW states, and Indiana’s income growth was 25 percent greater than that of its nearest RTW neighbor, Iowa

Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said her state tried right to work once before, from 1957-65 and “it was an utter failure.”  She predicted a repeat and added Hoosiers will exact retribution when they vote in November.

“I am reminded of the saying, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’ and it seems especially fitting today,” she said.  “Hoosiers have been here before” and after the prior failure, voters “rose up, changed elected officials and repealed it.  It appears we are headed there again.

“Sadly, passage not only means that workers’ rights and ability to collectively bargain will be significantly weakened, it means strong-arm tactics, misinformation and big money have won at the Indiana statehouse,” Guyott added, reminding voters that Daniels and the GOP denied workers from testifying against it and barred people from the state capitol during passage.

After citing an Indiana building trades report showing the negative impact of right-to-work laws elsewhere, AFL-CIO Building Trades Department President Mark Ayers said “misinformation and special interest money may have carried the day today, but the fight is far from over.

“Let’s be clear about the fundamental underpinnings of this issue. Contrary to what right-to-work proponents would have the public believe, this WAS NOT (his emphasis) about creating an inviting economic atmosphere that would attract businesses to Indiana.  Rather, this effort – just like recent efforts to limit collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and Ohio – was first and foremost about political power. Indiana workers and those elsewhere “will not be silenced. Indeed, the sleeping giant that is the American middle class has been awakened.”