Ignoring public opinion, Indiana Senate approves “right to work”

INDIANAPOLIS - Despite mass opposition, the Indiana State Senate yesterday approved a so-called right to work bill by 28-22.

In the Republican-controlled House, meanwhile, Speaker Brian Bosma continued maneuvers to force the working people of the state to accept the legislation.

Thousands of workers throughout Indiana have been holding meetings, staffing phone banks, writing letters and signing petitions to show opposition to "right to work" measures.

There are actually two separate "right to work" bills, HB 1001 in the House and SB 269 in the Senate. The bill that passed in the Senate now goes to a House committee where amendments can be tacked on.  After that it gets a second reading and a final vote.

If there are no changes made in the House, the bill goes straight to the governor's desk for his signature. If changes are made the measure goes back to the Senate which votes again to approve or disapprove.

As the Republicans in the state Senate were ramming through the bill yesterday 10,000 workers packed into the Indiana Statehouse in protest. The senators cast their vote, siding with the big corporations backing the bill, as thousands in the building chanted in opposition, demanding that the senators consider, instead, the interests of the working people of Indiana.

"Big corporate dollars and national politics are threatening Hoosier wages and middle-class jobs," said AFL-CIO field communications staffer Cathy Sherwin, who was in the Indiana Statehouse with the thousands protesting the Senate's action.

"Worse," she said, "politicians like Speaker Bosma and Gov. Mitch Daniels are playing fast and loose with the democratic process. They want to push our unions right out of Indiana."

The national Republican Party is giving Indiana governor and chief "right to work" backer in the state Mitch Daniels the top spot in the GOP's post-State of the Union commentary tonight. Labor and its allies say that decision signals that Republicans are dead serious about making attacks on workers the cornerstone of their 2012 election campaigns.

"We're back at the Statehouse today," Sherwin said. "Our voices have ensured bipartisan opposition to right to work for less."

The protests have had had a major effect on the legislative process in Indianapolis. Throughout the day yesterday, Democratic lawmakers, at least, brought up amendments to the Republican bill in an attempt to lessen the blow to the state's workers.

All the Democratic amendments, however, were rejected along party lines.

Included among the rejected amendments was the most popular one, which called for a referendum in which the voters would decide on the question of right to work for less.

Bosma shut down discussion on the amendments, denying them a hearing and cutting off debate. In protest, House Democrats left the chamber as a group and went to "caucus."

Democrats have been describing their ongoing filibuster blocking final action on the bill as a "caucus" and Republicans have countered by voting to fine them $1,000 for every day they stay out.

"Closing doors and cutting off debate is no way to represent Indiana voters," said Sherwin, as she blamed Republicans for the legislative mess. "We see a stark divide between legislators working on behalf of lobbyists and special interests and those working for their constituents to stop the rush to ram through right to work for less legislation."