Rep: 'How can this bill be radical when 22 other states have right-to-work laws?'
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State House on a 54-44 vote today passed House Bill 1001, paving the way to make Indiana the 23rd right-to-work state in the nation. The vote took place after House Democrats finally attended session Wednesday afternoon, ending their work stoppage over the issue.
Under the legislation, unions would be barred from collecting mandatory representation fees.
HB 1001 will now be sent to the Indiana Senate. If the Senate passes the bill without amendment, it would go the the desk of Gov. Mitch Daniels as quickly as this week. Earlier this week the Senate passed its own right-to-work bill, SB 269, which is currently residing in the House.
What seems certain is that, barring the unexpected, the Democrats lost any chance of stopping Indiana from becoming a right-to-work state when HB 1001 passed about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday. House Democrats up until now had been able to prevent sessions from taking place by denying the House a quorum with the simple method of not showing up to work.
Polling showed that Indiana voters didn't like the work stoppage tactic after the Democrats used it to prevent right-to-work legislation from passing last year. Also, this year legislators face daily fines of $1,000 for preventing quorums by skipping sessions.
A long floor debate took place before the vote was taken on HB 1001. The debate started out with Democratic lawmakers forcing open the chamber doors so the yells of anti-right-to-work protesters could be heard.
At first House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the doors should be shut, but then relented and let the debate take place with the doors open. Eventually, the crowd quieted, particularly after a couple of Democratic representatives asked the demonstrators not to let their voices drown out the comments of the lawmakers.
Rep. Gerald Torr, R-Carmel, sponsor of the bill, said there were two reasons to vote for the bill, individual rights and jobs.
“If not for having to address federal exemptions and other technicalities, this bill would consist of only about six lines,” Rep. Torr said. “First its about saying employees can't be forced to be represented by unions. Second, it's about creating jobs. This bill does not prohibit collective bargaining; it is not about busting unions.
“We are told by our economic development people and our site selection people that somewhere around one-third of businesses will not even look at a state if it isn't a right-to-work state,” he continued. “Many of our unemployed could benefit from this legislation.”
Sen. Torr then addressed some of the anti-right-to-work rhetoric he said he'd heard in recent weeks.
“According to the rhetoric of the opposition, this legislation is radical,” he said. “But how can it be radical when there are 22 other states that have right-to-work laws? And some of those states are kicking our butts in economic development.
“Also, according to some of the rhetoric, this legislation will result in lower wages,” Sen. Torr continued. “If I thought that was true, I wouldn't have sponsored the bill. But when you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, they show that spending power is actually higher in right-to-work states. And regarding job creation, when you average all of the right-to-work states and make comparisons, their average unemployment rate is a full point lower than the rate of the states that don't have right-to-work.”
House Democratic Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, harped on the idea that right-to-work is a bad idea and the Republicans had refused to put it on the ballot by not supporting the Democrat-sponsored “referendum amendment” earlier this week.
“This issue was not debated in the last election,” Rep. Bauer said. “It was not an election issue. The Republicans were given a chance to let the people have a voice on this. But not a single Republican voted to do it. So, if you are a Republican who wants to vote against this now, so you can say you voted no on this, you might as well vote yes.
“Just tell people you voted for the right to work for less pay, the right to work for less health care, the right to work for less safety,” Rep. Bauer continued. “Even if there is not a referendum on this on the ballot, there will be a referendum in the election.”
Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mt. Vernon, said she believed the core right-to-work issue was a part of the 2010 election campaign.
“I didn't campaign on right-to-work,” Rep. McNamara said. “I had never even heard of right-to-work before it was brought up by some Teamsters. But all I did hear was 'jobs, jobs, jobs,' in the campaign.”
Rep. John Barrett, D-Indianapolis, argued that the Republicans were just plain wrong about the issue.
“You've got the numbers,” he said. “But just because you have the power doesn't mean you're right. What you're doing to the great state of Indiana is a shame, a shame, a shame.”
Rep, Sue Ellspermann, R-Ferdinand, said she'd had experience in both right-to-work states and a non-right-to-work state – which happened to be Michigan.
“When I was younger I was a worker in a union in Flint, Michigan,” Rep. Ellspermann said. “I was transferred to work in Texas, which was a right-to-work state. What I found in Texas was different than what I'd witnessed in Flint. In Texas, the productivity was higher and the worker morale was higher.
“Then we hear rhetoric that this bill would result in lower wages,” Rep. Ellspermann added. “But in Oklahoma, which is a right-to-work state, the per capita income ranking has risen over the past 10 years. Over that same period, Oklahoma passed Indiana.”