Labor groups support Dems' action

2011-02-22T15:30:00Z 2011-02-24T15:49:13Z Labor groups support Dems' actionBy Bowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | Members of the labor groups from around the state cheered Indiana House Democrats for not showing up to work Tuesday to vote on the right-to-work bill to keep it from being brought to the floor for a vote.

But many are still wary about other bills they view as attacks on unions and will continue their show of force in the next few days.

Early Tuesday morning, more than 1,000 people packed areas outside of House and Senate chambers and led chants blasting Republican leaders for what some called "union-busting tactics."

"The American labor movement for 150 years has fought for better working conditions," said State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes. "And that's why these are the people who gave you the weekend, who gave you child labor laws. That's what we're here to protect."

Without the House Democrats, the legislative body was without a quorum and unable to do business. Without House assent to the Republican-approved committee report for House Bill 1468, the right-to-work bill, the bill dies.

The measure would have made it a Class A misdemeanor for an employer to require a person to be a member of or pay dues to a labor organization as a condition of employment. Labor supporters said this bill and others would erode the ability of unions to operate and maintain quality conditions and wages for workers.

"This is clearly about quality of life for people in America," said Rick Muir, president of the Indiana Federation of Teachers. "This is about the middle class. This is about saving the middle class. This is a fight for the future of our country, not just the state of Indiana. But certainly I'm concerned, and everyone here is fighting for our children and grandchildren."

Each holding a child in their arms, 20-year-old Portage resident Roy Cafaro and 19-year-old Portage resident Amanda Boer sat on the floor outside the Senate chamber in support of the effort about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. Cafaro, a member of Ironworkers Local 395, said it was important to bring his family and two young children to Indianapolis for them to show legislators the impact the bills would have on working families.

"We need collective bargaining," Cafaro said. "It's important to us. (Unions fight for) wages, workers' rights, working conditions. We need those things. Without them, we would get abused."

Portage-based Ironworkers Local 395 was among the groups that brought busloads of people to rally in the Statehouse.

Rosa Maria Rodriguez, an ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor employee and United Steelworkers Local 1010 financial secretary, said the Monday vote on the right-to-work bill was difficult to stomach, but not surprising. On Monday, a House committee voted along party lines to send the right-to-work bill to a vote in the Republican-controlled House.

"It's almost like they're trying to keep us busy putting out fires," Rodriguez said.

Dale Johnsen, president of the Indiana State Building & Construction Trades Council, called for higher levels of voter participation so during the next election to "vote these scoundrels out of office."

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