Ind. Lawmakers Seek to Revive ‘Right-to-Work’ Plan

October 25, 2011

An Indiana panel is set to tell lawmakers to revive "right-to-work" legislation when they reconvene in January in a move that could set the stage for another showdown with House Democrats, who staged a five-week walkout over a similar proposal this year.

A draft of a report compiled by the Legislature's Interim Study Committee on Employment says businesses refuse to locate in Indiana because it is not a "right-to-work" state. The report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press details three months of study on the contentious issue.

The proposal would ban from unions in the state from mandating workers join their ranks or pay them a fee. Supporters say it would attract more business to the state but opponents, including labor unions, say it creates a "free-rider" problem where workers can enjoy the benefits of union representation without paying any dues.

The Republican-led committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider the report. Republicans hold a one-vote margin on the panel and are expected to approve the report.

"I don't think the state ought to be the ones who decide whether you join a union or not," said Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, chairman of the study panel. Boots largely crafted the report but said he consulted with other members when putting it together.

"Right to work" was one of many Republican measures advanced last year which led Democrats to leave the state for five weeks, effectively depriving Republicans of the number of members needed to conduct business.

Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, said he is still ardently opposed to the proposal, but was not ready Tuesday to say whether he would walk again on the issue.

"All of the concerns I had, all of those questions, I didn't have any of those answered," said Battles, one of four Democrats on the study committee.

Rep. Gerald Torr, R-Carmel, says he is ready to file "right-to-work" legislation again for next session. It will be the eighth year he's put in the proposal, but he said now he hopes that lawmakers feel like it has been vetted to a point where they can tackle it without the questions that stymied the issue earlier.

Union members, business leaders, economic development analysts and scores of other packed daylong hearings on the issue held over the last three months. But Indiana State AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said Tuesday she felt the study committee's answer was predetermined when they began their work this summer.

"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 in a statement Tuesday.

The group did not recommend taking up project labor agreements next year. Boots said that was because the Senate already considered banning PLAs last year and did not approve the measure.

Story source: AP