Governor Mitch Daniels made Indiana the nation’s 23rd right-to-work state by signing a bill exempting nonunion employees from paying dues when working alongside their unionized colleagues.
Daniels enacted the measure today about four hours after the state Senate gave it final passage on a 28-22 vote, ending a contentious debate over a law that Republicans view as a cost- cutting, job-creating tool, while Democrats call it a wage- lowering union buster.
“This law won’t be a magic answer but we’ll be far better off with it,” Daniels said today in a statement from Indianapolis. “No one’s wages will go down, no one’s benefits will be reduced, and the right to organize and bargain collectively is untouched an intact.”
Twenty-two states, mostly in the Deep South and the Rocky Mountain West, had already enacted right-to-work laws. Most recently, Oklahoma passed its law in 2001. Republican gains in the 2010 elections prompted legislation in states including Wisconsin and Ohio aimed at restricting bargaining rights for government workers’ unions.
Indiana’s measure targets labor contracts with businesses. Union members composed 10.9 percent of the state’s workforce in 2010, according to the U.S. Labor Statistics Bureau. That’s down from 15.4 percent in 2000.
“There is no empirical evidence, if you take the time to read the studies, that right-to-work creates one job,” Democratic Senator Vi Simpson of Ellettsville said in debate before the vote. “We can expect lower wages for our people.”
Senators debated the bill for almost two hours as union members outside and inside the statehouse chanted, “Kill the bill.”
Republican Senator Carlin Yoder of Middlebury, the bill’s sponsor, said unions “will still be allowed to exist.” During floor debate, Yoder said right to work gives “freedom to those who don’t want to be part of something they don’t believe in.”
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill Jan. 26, ending three weeks of Democratic boycotts that prevented the chamber from operating.
After the vote, opponents began a protest march from the capitol to Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played Feb. 5. Frank Straub, director of the Indianapolis Public Safety Department, estimated the crowd at between 3,000 and 4,000.
The law will take effect March 14.
--With assistance from Mark Niquette in Indianapolis. Editors: Stephen Merelman, Ted Bunker
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