INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana is halfway to becoming the nation's 23rd right-to-work state after the Republican-controlled Senate narrowly approved the labor policy Monday.
The vote was 28-22.
Nine Senate Republicans broke with their party's leadership and voted "no," including Sens. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, and Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake. All 13 Senate Democrats voted against the legislation.
Senate Bill 269, which prohibits a business and a union from agreeing to charge fees to nonunion employees for collective bargaining and grievance services, now advances to the Republican-controlled House.
The House on Monday rejected a Democratic proposal for a public referendum on right-to-work and could take a final vote as soon as Tuesday on its right-to-work proposal, House Bill 1001.
The House still must approve the Senate's bill, or vice versa, before Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels can sign right-to-work into law.
In contrast to the House, where Democrats stormed off the floor after losing on their referendum proposal, 39-59, the three-hour right-to-work debate in the marble-lined Senate chamber was passionate, yet respectful.
State Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, the bill's sponsor, explained that right-to-work will bring workers freedom from unions and Indiana the opportunity to attract new businesses and new jobs.
"By going to a right-to-work state in Indiana, more Hoosiers will have a chance to be employed," Yoder said, citing the state's 9 percent unemployment rate. "We need those jobs."
But state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, said right-to-work won't create the jobs its proponents claim. Otherwise, he said, every state would be rushing to become a right-to-work state, and that's not happening.
"We're in good shape, we should be proud and we don't need any phantom, phony, hullabaloo right-to-work law that isn't going to help us at all," Mrvan said.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, linked right-to-work to a struggle between unrestricted capitalism and the power of collective action.
"Right-to-work is the crown jewel of fundamentalist capitalism and right-to-work is being pushed today, not because we need it, but because they can," Tallian said. "This legislation is about breaking and eliminating unions, and it's always been about that."
Charbonneau, one of the nine Republican defectors, said he was not convinced companies will come to Indiana because it's a right-to-work state.