Protests upbeat as labor groups crowd Statehouse

2011-02-23T17:00:00Z 2011-02-24T15:49:09Z Protests upbeat as labor groups crowd StatehouseBy Bowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | The chants were louder and the mood more jubilant among thousands of protesters Wednesday at the Statehouse.

Supporters of organized labor convened for a third consecutive day despite the controversial right-to-work bill being killed before reaching a House vote. More than 3,500 people, at least 500 of whom were affiliated with a Northwest Indiana union, packed areas in the atrium and outside the House chamber during the day.

Hobart resident Charva Jones and several dozen United Steelworkers from Northwest Indiana helped cheer, chant and hold signs after arriving at the Statehouse by bus. Jones said union members will plan daily trips to Indianapolis to make sure the Legislature hears their voice on certain bills. 

"The fight I had the first day is the fight that I'll have until the end," said Jones, a USW Local 1014 griever and chairman of Women of Steel.

Protests are expected to continue Thursday.

Most House Democrats remained in Urbana, Ill., on Wednesday to discuss their political strategy, leaving Republicans without a quorum to conduct business. House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels called on the missing legislators to return.

During a Wednesday morning session, Bosma asked Indiana State Police troopers to escort a boisterous crowd out of the House gallery after they booed and shouted comments following applause for statements he made. Prior to being escorted out, he issued the crowd inside the chamber a warning not to be disruptive during the session.

That setback didn't reduce the frequent chants of "We support teachers" and "Save middle class" thundering throughout the building later.

State Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, received a raucous applause after telling the crowd, "We have your back," and that the Democrats in the House and Senate will stand for working families.  

A band played live music during the afternoon, and more than 500 boxes of pizza and cases of bottled water were bought for protesters. Nancy Guyott, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, said donations from the community paid for the food and beverages.

Portage resident Brian Fadely brought his teenage daughter, Samantha, and his girlfriend's son, Logan Parker, to get a first-hand lesson in politics.

"This is all about the working people in Indiana," said Fadely, a member of Ironworkers Local 395.

The right-to-work bill in the House may be dead, but many people worried it could resurface as an amendment to a bill later, said Randy Palmateer, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council. Palmateer also said he has problems with House Bill 1216, which would amend rules on project-labor agreements.

Ted Bilski, business agent of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 142 in Gary, said Bosma and leading Republicans should make concessions on certain bills since workers in Northwest Indiana and around the state have been forced to take them for years.

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