|INDIANA STATE AFL-CIO|
WRTV: Could Right to Work Backfire on Republicans?
Could 'Right-To-Work' Backfire On Republicans?
POSTED: 4:34 pm EST November 11, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Republicans seem determined to push ahead with a so-called "right-to-work" law in the next legislative session, but the experiences of a neighboring state may cause them to rethink their strategy.
Earlier this week in Ohio, voters overwhelmingly repealed a new law that Republican Gov. John Kasich had championed to drastically reduce the collective bargaining rights of public sector employees.
Indiana union leaders said right-to-work legislation, which would prohibit workers from being forced to join unions or pay fees, is equally anti-labor and could effectively eliminate collective bargaining.
"What Ohio shows us is that, overwhelmingly, these attacks on working families are not what people tried to vote for in 2010," said Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott. "They weren't things, as the governor here has said, that people campaigned on, and this isn't the change that people were hoping for."
But some business leaders believe Republicans have less to fear from labor than in the past because the unionized percentage of the workforce has shrunk so much.
"Last time we had something big in the Statehouse was 1995," said Pat Kiely, president of the Indiana Manufacturers Association. "Since then, unions have lost 167,000 members in Indiana, almost 37 percent of their membership, so the private sector union employees in the state are a small minority."
But Margaret Ferguson, a political science professor at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis, said she believes Indiana Republicans should learn from the Ohio vote, which saw most non-union demographic segments rejecting the governor's law.
"I think it was an example of the governor overreaching," Ferguson said. "I think often a new majority will do that, and I think our General Assembly would probably do well to take a step back, because I think it might be unpopular. Again, it's not clear to me that they will, but I think they probably ought to."
One of the advantages that opponents of the Ohio law had was that that state allows citizens to petition to put initiatives on the ballot. That's how they were able to repeal the new law.
In Indiana, there's no way to repeal a legislative action. But angry voters can still toss out lawmakers who do things they don't like.
In 1995, a new Republican House majority passed a law to cut wages on government construction projects, despite tens of thousands of workers demonstrating against it, and they promptly lost their majority in the next election.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma declined to speak on right-to-work Friday, but said he would probably address the issue on Nov. 21, the day before the legislature's organizational meeting.
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