In responding to President Obama's State of the Union address, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels advocated the failed Republican policies of the past: tax breaks for the rich, deregulation, and cuts to the social safety net. But even more extreme than the plan he laid out last night is what he is trying to do in Indiana. Daniels and his fellow Indiana Republicans are close to passing so-called "right-to-work" legislation.
Simply put, this legislation would make Indiana and its workers poorer. It is the ultimate transfer of wealth from the 99 percent to the 1 percent. It's Robin Hood economics in reverse. A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that this type of legislation would reduce wages by $1,500 a year and lower the likelihood that employees get health care coverage or pensions through their jobs. Childhood poverty would increase by 15.7 percent. Revenue for the important programs Hoosier families rely on would go down.
Proponents of this bill say it's about jobs but the people of Indiana know better. The EPI report called this claim "completely without scientific foundation." Oklahoma, the last state to adopt right-to-work in 2001, has seen manufacturing jobs decrease by a third since its passage.
Hoosier families know this isn't about jobs, it's about politics. It's about hurting workers. It's about undermining unions. It's about using the law to line the pockets of big corporations at the expense of ordinary families. It is no different than the attempted power grabs that took place in Ohio and Wisconsin.
Thousands of workers, including many UFCW members, have been at the State Capitol in Indianapolis every day to let legislators know that this anti-worker bill is wrong for Hoosier families. But despite these pleas, tone deaf Senate Republicans passed it with little debate and no amendments. The House is set to go next, where Speaker Brian Bosma has made passage of this anti-worker legislation his personal crusade. He has refused to allow consideration of an amendment that would send the question to the people of Indiana for a referendum vote. He has levied fines against filibustering Democrats who simply want the substantive debate such a controversial issue deserves. His goal is to ram through this legislation as quickly as possible.
Indiana House Democrats have courageously denied Speaker Bosma the quorum he needs to pass the bill. But should he succeed in ramming it though there is one person who can stand up for workers and stop it from becoming law. It's a person who said in a 2006 meeting with the Teamsters: "I'm a supporter of the labor laws we have in the state of Indiana and I'm not interested in changing any of them -- not the prevailing wage law and certainly not a 'right to work' law... " That person is Governor Daniels himself.
Perhaps saying he would veto this anti-worker bill would not have been popular with last night's Republican audience. But the people of Indiana are yearning to hear those words. Governor Daniels is often credited as someone who puts state and country above party. Well actions speak louder than words, Governor. Now that your moment in the national spotlight is done, it's time to do what's best for Hoosier families. You had it right in 2006--right-to-work is wrong and you should oppose it.