Indiana Pins Hopes on Right-to-Work Bill to Spur Job Growth

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Indiana lawmakers are bracing for another high-profile fight over a right-to-work bill when the legislative session opens Wednesday. Last year Democrats fled the state in protest, preventing the legislature from conducting business for five weeks.

The right-to-work bill would end forced unionization for private-sector workers in Indiana. Its supporters say the bill would increase jobs and choices in the Midwestern state with a 9 percent unemployment rate. Unions complain it threatens their existence.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) is speaking out in favor of the bill, even recording a 60-second ad. Daniels says Indiana is losing out on one-third of new business opportunities because it doesn’t have the law. He said the 22 states with right-to-work laws are creating more jobs as a result.

“I’ve looked into the arguments against the idea and they just don’t hold up,” Daniels said in the ad. “Right to work has no effect on safety or the workers’ right to organize. Several right-to-work states are more unionized than Indiana. We can’t afford to keep missing out on good jobs just for lack of this simple freedom.”

During an interview with Heritage in September (video embedded), Daniels spoke about his executive order to decertify government unions in 2005 and the decision by Democrat lawmakers to flee Indiana last year during the right-to-work debate.

One year later, with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, it remains unclear if the bill will ever reach Daniels’ desk. Last year Democrats were emboldened by union-fueled uproar in Wisconsin and Ohio. If they pull the same stunt this year and leave the state, they’ll be fined $1,000 for every day they’re gone.

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The fireworks could start tomorrow on the first day of the session.

Heritage’s James Sherk says the law is a common-sense solution for states wanting to create more job opportunities for workers.

Right-to-work laws reduce the financial benefit from organizing workplaces where unions have limited support. This makes unions less aggressive and encourages business investment, creating jobs. States can and should reduce unemployment by becoming right-to-work states.

Sherk’s analysis also found that right-to-work laws have little effect on wages, despite union claims to the contrary. Opponents of Indiana’s bill are making that argument a major issue in their campaign to defeat the effort.

While supporters in Indiana maintain their focus on the bill’s effect on job creation, there’s also a case to be made about the anti-American concept of forced unionization. Currently in Indiana, the government gives workers no choice. Their dues — 1 percent to 2 percent of wages — are given to union bosses, often to advocate for an agenda that workers might not support.

Passage of the bill in Indiana could boost efforts in other states. Last year New Hampshire lawmakers adopted a right-to-work bill, only to have it vetoed by the governor. The New York Times noted other campaigns in Maine, Michigan and Missouri.

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