US

Indiana GOP zeroes in on ‘right to work’ law, despite Dems going AWOL

David Martosko Executive Editor

When Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin fled their state in February 2011 to hamstring Republicans working to limit the collective-bargaining rights of public-sector unions, their colleagues in Indiana were clearly paying attention. Beginning Wednesday, Hoosier State Democrats have been skipping out of work to prevent Republicans from passing a “right to work” law.

The legislative proposal, likely to pass the Republican-dominated state legislature — if everyone were present — aims to ban negotiations between companies and unions whose workers are forced to pay dues in order to keep their jobs.

But the Christian Science Monitor reports that although Democrats are AWOL, and risk $1,000 fines every day they are absent, Republicans are taking steps toward their goal. On Friday a House committee heard more than five hours of testimony on the bill.

Democrats, who rely on labor unions for political support, want to avoid a Republican victory. But they may not be able to hold their opponents off much longer.

“Unions are big contributors to the Democrats,” Indiana University political science professor Brian Vargus said, “and they feel with the decline of unionization, it would solidify Republicans. It simply comes down to that.”

Still, he told the paper, it’s a matter of when, not if.

Indiana’s Republican legislators already used their majority last year to pass a law similar to the one that caused the fracas in Wisconsin. And as steel mills and automotive plants decline in Indiana, unions have seen their memberships decline to 10.9 percent of the private sector workforce, a full percentage point below the national average

Democrats say they will not return for a vote until Republicans agree to hold field hearings throughout Indiana to justify the bill’s passage. Republicans say they will probably start enforcing the $1,000 per day penalty next week.

A Democratic-affiliated political action committee called ActBlue has already launched a fundraising effort enabling liberal voters to help offset those fines for Democratic lawmakers who continue to avoid coming to work.

David is The Daily Caller’s executive editor. Follow him on Twitter.