INDIANAPOLIS - A thousand union members and their allies are sitting in and blocking the entrances to the state Senate chamber here. The demonstrators, singing, playing music and chanting slogans, say they are fighting two anti-union measures that Republicans are seeking to pass in the state legislature.
Democrats, taking their lead from their counterparts in Wisconsin, are boycotting the senate proceedings, denying Republicans a quorum required to vote on the "right to work for less" proposals.
The bill Republicans had hoped to ram through today would prevent Indiana companies from entering union contracts that require workers to either join a union or pay dues to a union.
Another bill, HB 1585, would ban collective bargaining for state employees and would ban future governors from restoring it.
Chris Sanders, a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers for southern Indiana and Kentucky, is among those sitting in, playing his guitar. He said the Republican proposals would "take down the living standard of Indiana workers by over $5,000."
In Wisconsin, meanwhile, thousands of union members and their allies continue their occupation of the state Capitol into its seventh day. The Steelworkers, led into the building last night by Leo Gerard, the union's president, woke up this morning among hundreds who spent the night on the marble floors.
While they slept in there were reports that the Southern Central Federation of Labor, the AFL-CIO chapter that covers Madison, has voted to "make preparations" for a general strike and wants its Education Committee to discuss the issue of such a strike with the membership. The measure is seen as a way to increase pressure on the Wisconsin business community to get the governor to back off his attacks on unions. Many businesses are already indicating that they would support a compromise.
Photo: Melissa O'Rourke