01/06/2012 06:46 am ET Updated Mar 07, 2012

A Shameful Attack on Working Families in Indiana

The central battleground in the war against workers today is the Indiana Statehouse. Anti-worker lawmakers are frantic to pass a bill that would weaken unions and shrink Indiana's middle class. The legislative fight over the measure could make the Super Bowl look like a stroll in the park.

Indiana's Republican leadership is desperate to pass a so-called "right to work" bill before Feb. 5, when Super Bowl XLVI kicks off at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. They want to avoid any negative attention around the game. In the meantime, supporters of this awful bill will say and do anything to get it passed.

These politicians have no shame. They have:
  • cribbed the bill's language from pre-written legislation influenced by out-of-state corporations like Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and Duke Energy;
  • run television commercials paid for by secret donors;
  • tried to severely restrict public - but not lobbyist - access to the Statehouse;
  • put out dishonest "studies" underwritten by such anti-worker groups as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the National Right to Work Committee, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and a corporate advocacy group from Oklahoma;
  • claimed companies refused to move to Indiana because it wasn't a right-to-work state. When pressed, they couldn't name a single company that decided not to relocate to Indiana because of that.
  • The real reason for the bill has nothing to do with rights and nothing to do with work. It doesn't even have anything to do with improving Indiana's business climate - already ranked sixth best in the country. The purpose of right-to-work for less is to please corporate donors who want to lower labor costs. What right-to-work for less does is limit unions' financial resources and therefore their ability to negotiate for higher wages and benefits.

    One of the more bizarre claims is that businesses would be more likely to relocate to Indiana if right-to-work for less were to become law. Now ask yourself: when was the last time you heard about a factory shutting down and moving to Oklahoma or South Carolina because they're right-to-work states? What you do hear are stories of plants moving to Mexico and China. Gordon Lafer makes this point in his excellent study published by the Economic Policy Institute.

    Lafer writes, "in 2012, companies looking for cheap labor are overwhelmingly looking to China or Mexico, not South Carolina. To the extent that enacting RTW legislation ever served as an effective economic development strategy--and the evidence is weak on this point--globalization has rendered RTW irrelevant.

    Right-to-work proponents claim another study proves that it doesn't lower compensation. As Notre Dame professor Marty Wolfson pointed out, the study only compared executive compensation.

    Here's what rigorous, academic studies show about right-to-work laws: They lower annual wages by $1,500 a year.

    It's a sad day in our democracy when elected officials work to impoverish their own constituents.