INDIANAPOLIS | Despite more than a thousand teachers, steelworkers and other union members filling the Statehouse in opposition, an Indiana House committee Monday approved a right-to-work proposal that Hoosier unions say is an attack on their rights.
The House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 8-5 along party lines to send House Bill 1468 to the full, Republican-controlled House.
In casting his vote against the proposal, state Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, simply said "never."
A showdown is expected Tuesday in the House as Democrats are likely to use several procedural techniques to try to stop the proposal from advancing to a final vote. A legislative deadline requires the House to vote on the legislation by Friday or else it dies.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said there is "broad consensus" among Republicans to advance the legislation, though he admitted it's not unanimous. The 40 Democrats in the House would have to pick off 10 Republican votes to stop the proposal from going to the Senate.
Among Northwest Indiana Republicans, state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, and state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, both said they oppose the measure. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he'd prefer state lawmakers focus on the state budget, rather than right-to-work issues. State Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston, said he is likely to support the proposal, depending on its final language.
The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, makes it illegal for workers in a union shop to be required to pay a "fair share" for union services, such as collective bargaining. The bill exempts construction worker unions.
Torr said he doesn't understand why union members oppose the legislation, because it doesn't affect collective bargaining rights and if unions truly are serving their members, workers will continue to join and pay dues.
"There's nothing in here to prevent 100 percent participation by employees if they believe they are well served by the union," Torr said.
He also said if Indiana becomes the 22nd right-to-work state in the country it would attract businesses and new jobs to the state.
Union leaders vehemently disagreed with Torr's claims and said a right-to-work law is designed to kill unions and will drag down wages and benefits, even for nonunion workers.
Nancy Guyotte, executive director of the Indiana AFL-CIO, said seven of the 10 poorest states in the country are right-to-work states.
"The people of Indiana don't want to win the race to the bottom," Guyotte said.
Jerome Davison, of Portage, a steelworker at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, told the committee the right-to-work proposal is designed to defund unions.
"My grandmother always said, why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?" Davison said.
Federal law requires unions to represent all employees at union shops in right-to-work states, even those who choose not to join the union and refuse to pay fair share fees. Davison said without adequate funds, unions will be at a disadvantage negotiating for wages, benefits, safety issues and conditions of employment.
"You may think this is all fun and games, but I work in one of the most dangerous industries in the world," Davison said. "Is a union perfect? Hell, no. We've got our problems. But I wouldn't have what I've got today without a union."