Indiana Democrats Flee Statehouse; Gov. Daniels Won't Support GOP's Anti-Union Bill

02/22/2011 04:44 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Democratic lawmakers have fled the Indiana Statehouse to prevent passage of Republican-backed anti-union legislation, copying a tactic used by Wisconsin state Democrats last week to block similar legislation. In the face of the walkout, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels suggested Republicans drop the bill on Wednesday.

The chairman of the Indiana Democratic party says the legislation would lower wages for Indiana workers. The bill would make Indiana a "right-to-work" state, which would prevent unions from entering agreements with employers requiring workers to be union members as a condition of employment. Right-to-work laws are on the books in 22 states.

"On average families in right to work states make $5,500 less income than working Hoosiers," said Dem chairman Dan Parker in an interview with HuffPost. "This bill would depress middle class wages here in Indiana." (According to AFL-CIO calculations using Labor Department data, workers in right-to-work states make $5,333 less than their counterparts in non-right-to-work states.)

Democrats are protesting the right-to-work bill along with several others, including one that would ban collective bargaining by public sector employees. Parker said Indiana Democrats drew inspiration from the public reaction to a similar move by Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin, who fled the state to prevent passage of a bill that would destroy collective bargaining rights for public workers. Republicans say they're going after union members' pensions and collective bargaining abilities in an effort to tame swelling state deficits.

Demonstrators rallied at the Statehouse on Monday and staged a sit-in on Tuesday. Protests will continue all week, according to Allison Luthe, an organizer with a local labor group called Central Indiana Jobs With Justice.

Parker wouldn't disclose the whereabouts of the Indiana lawmakers, refusing to confirm reports they'd fled to Illinois or Kentucky. A spokesman for House Democratic Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer also refused to confirm those reports.

Daniels said in December that he didn't want Republican lawmakers to push the right-to-work issue, which they had not campaigned on, because it would distract from his agenda. "I think if you're going to try to do something that fundamental, you owe it to the public to have that kind of an airing first, and that has not happened here," Daniels said, according to the Evansville Courier & Press.

A spokeswoman for Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma told HuffPost simply that Bosma would attempt to reconvene the Statehouse at least twice more Wednesday evening. "He's hoping the Democrats will show up to do the job they're elected to do. We have a total 23 bills that risk being killed."

Parker said House Democrats would remain "in caucus" -- as in, not on the statehouse floor -- until Republicans withdraw their legislation.

The tactic has worked for Indiana Democrats before: Parker said he was the House Democrats' caucus director in 1995, when Democrats boycotted statehouse for more than a week, until Republicans abandoned a redistricting effort (a similar strategy did not work out for Texas Democrats at the time). "Like 1995, when the Republicans overreached, this all backfired against them," he said. "None of these guys ran on this issue... I think they're overreaching again."

03/07/2011 5:01 PM EST

No Compromise?

The Atlantic reports that at one town hall meeting in Wisconsin, one GOP state senator faced "loud opposition" to a proposed compromise.

03/04/2011 1:04 AM EST

Judge Orders Protesters Out Of Capitol

From AP:

About 50 pro-union protesters peacefully left the state Capitol late Thursday after a judge ruled they could no longer spend the night to show their opposition to Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to eliminate nearly all collective bargaining rights for public workers.

The judge also ruled the state had violated the public's free speech and assembly rights by restricting access to the building.

Full story here.

03/03/2011 5:00 PM EST

Layoff Notices To Come Friday

AP reports that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says he will issue layoff notices to 1,500 state employees Friday if his union bill doesn't pass by then:

Walker also said in an interview with The Associated Press that he is negotiating with Democrats who stymied passage of the bill by leaving the state for changes to the proposal that would get them to return. Walker said he won't compromise on the collective bargaining issue or anything that saves the state money.

"I can't take any of that off the table," he said.

More here.

03/03/2011 11:16 AM EST

New Research Numbers

HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal writes:

A new survey released this morning by the Pew Research Center is the first to provide a clear before-and-after snapshot of national attitudes toward labor unions in the wake of the ongoing protests and budget conflict in Wisconsin:

The public’s overall views of labor unions have changed little through the lengthy stalemate between Wisconsin’s governor and the state’s public employee unions over collective bargaining rights. About half (47%) say they have a favorable opinion of labor unions compared with 39% who have an unfavorable opinion. In early February, 45% expressed a favorable opinion of unions and 41% said they had an unfavorable view. However, liberal Democrats and people in union households are more likely to say they have a very favorable opinion of labor unions than they were just weeks ago.

See the Pew Research report for their complete analysis and full results by party, ideology and union membership subgroups. The Pew Center had also conducted an in-depth survey on unions in early February, just before Walker released the budget bill that sparked the protests.

03/02/2011 6:42 PM EST

Man Cited For Unplugging Fox Equipment

The City of Madison has filed a police report charging a 23-year-old man for "disorderly conduct" after he unplugged extension cords from a Fox News vehicle. Read the full report here.

03/02/2011 6:00 PM EST

West Virginia Approves Pay Hikes For Public Workers

Adding another state into the debate on public workers, West Virginia's Herald-Dispatch reports:

West Virginia's public employees would reap pay raises averaging 2 percent this year, with a second year of increases promised to teachers and school workers, under a proposal advanced Wednesday to the state Senate by the House.

But the 78-22 vote reflected GOP-led concerns that increasing state spending threatens a stable budgetary picture that has so far allowed West Virginia to avoid deficits and the painful choices they can force. Foes also contrasted the pay hikes with the state's continuing unemployment woes.

Full story here.

03/02/2011 5:44 PM EST

Update: Ohio Bill Would Jail Striking Librarians

More details have surfaced on Ohio's controversial SB 5, which just passed the state senate.

WSJ reports:

Senate Bill 5 would prohibit public-employee unions representing teachers, librarians, toll collectors and others from bargaining over health benefits, pensions and working conditions. Under the bill, unions could still negotiate wages, but striking would be prohibited for all public workers, taking away a major bargaining chip. Workers could face a fine of up to $1,000, or 30 days in jail, if they go on strike.

A Twitter campaign, #standupOH, has already mounted. As user @escapetochengdu tweeted, "The bill that just passed Ohio Senate allows the government to jail striking librarians for 30 days. Despicable."

Read the whole Wall Street Journal story here.

03/02/2011 5:25 PM EST

Ohio Senate Passes Controversial Anti-Union Bill

The bill put forth by an Ohio panel earlier today has passed the state senate, TPM reports:

The Ohio State Senate just passed the controversial SB 5, aimed a limiting unionized state employees' ability to collectively bargain or go on strike.

In an indication of how divisive the legislation is in the Buckeye State, the final vote in the Senate was 17-16.

Gov. John Kasich (R) has endorsed the measure and is expected to sign it when it reaches his desk.

Full story here.

03/02/2011 5:18 PM EST

'Runaway Senator' Tourism Campaign Goes Viral

A tourism campaign leveraging the Wisconsin senators who fled to Rockford, Illinois has gone viral. The push, "Hide Away In Rockford," hawks "collectively bargained" rates to some of the town's best tourist attractions.

“Unlike Wisconsin’s state senators, this video isn’t low key; it’s been a real runaway hit," said Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (RACVB) President/CEO John Groh of the campaign's success.

Watch the promotional video here.

03/02/2011 4:48 PM EST

Polls: Polarized Wisconsin Leans Toward Unions

HuffPost's resident pollster Mark Blumenthal reports:

WASHINGTON -- A automated telephone poll conducted this week in Wisconsin by the Democratic-affiliated firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) largely confirms other recent polls showing public support for collective bargaining rights for unions and, by a narrow margin, more opposition than support for the agenda of Gov. Scott Walker (R). Some caution is in order, however, about several vote preference questions included in the same survey.

Despite the ongoing coverage and national interest in the controversy, all of the opinion surveys taken within Wisconsin so far have had sponsors with partisan ties, and each has taken a different approach to the questions asked. Where their questions have been similar, however, we can begin to compare the results.

Read more here.