'Right to Work' Stalls Indiana Legislative Session Before It Begins

  • January 06, 2012
  • By John Gramlich
Indiana's Republican leaders have made no secret about the fact that their biggest legislative priority this year is to make the state the 23rd in the nation with a "right-to-work" law. Legislative leaders and Governor Mitch Daniels have drummed up the proposal - which would ban private-sector unions from requiring employees to pay membership dues - for weeks.

All along, however, the question was how minority Democrats would react. Last year, the same legislation so infuriated Democrats in the state House of Representatives that they fled to neighboring Illinois for five weeks to deny Republicans a quorum and prevent the bill from passing. They eventually defeated the measure for the year.

This week, Indiana House Democrats showed that they are in no mood to back down this year, either. With the legislative session to begin on Wednesday (January 4), they refused to report for votes, again preventing the chamber from reaching a quorum. They repeated the tactic on Thursday.

As The Christian Science Monitor reports, House Democrats say they "will not return until Republicans agree to hold public hearings around the state" on the right-to-work bill. "It's a filibuster until we can get the truth" about the bill, House Minority Leader Pat Bauer says, according to the Monitor .

The showdown is just the latest clash over union rights in the Midwest, where Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin last year pushed through curbs on collective bargaining over labor protests. Voters in Ohio convincingly overturned the GOP collective-bargaining measure in November, while Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is facing a potential recall election over similar legislation.

In Indiana, the standoff may come down to public opinion over the merits of right-to-work, the Monitor notes. A recent poll found that 27 percent of Hoosiers support the legislation and 24 percent oppose it, with 48 percent still undecided.