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Latest News - December 2011

December 10, 2011
'Right to work' measure galvanizes both sides
Source: Indy Star
By: Mary Beth Schneider

There likely will be no issue bigger in the legislative session that begins Jan. 4 than the so-called "right to work" legislation.

Which is why those for and against it have gotten right down to work to pass or defeat it.

The AFL-CIO has issued a poll showing 47 percent of Hoosier voters oppose the legislation, which would ban companies and unions from negotiating a contract that requires non-members to pay fees, and just 38 percent support it.

At the same time, the Indiana Economic Development Commission voted to support it. And a conservative group, American Legislative Exchange Council is also backing the legislation.

The debate will heat up further on Friday, when Gov. Mitch Daniels gives a speech on his legislative agenda, in which he is widely expected to back passage of the "right to work" proposal.

The AFL-CIO poll showed that while the issue has broad support among Republican lawmakers -- making it a safe bet for passage -- it's not without political risk for the GOP.

The poll, which was taken by Hart Research Associates from Dec. 2-5 of 503 registered Indiana voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. The poll's respondents included 34 percent who said they were Democrats, or leaned that way, and 39 percent who said they were Republicans, or leaned to the GOP.

Only 21 percent of those polled thought that "right to work" should be the top legislative priority, as Republican leaders of the House and Senate have said it will be. Two-thirds of those polled -- 67 percent -- said other issues are more important, and 54 percent said they "strongly" felt that way.

In fact, only 34 percent of those Republicans polled agreed that "right to work" should top the legislative to-do list.

And while 32 percent thought the legislation would help create jobs and strengthen the economy, 50 percent thought it was being pursued for political reasons to weaken labor unions -- traditionally a key constituency for Democrats.

The poll reminded voters that in this year's legislative session, the issue prompted Democratic state representatives to leave the state, preventing Republicans from conducting business.

"This could happen again if Republicans attempt to pass the Right to Work bill," the poll told voters.

Asked how that possibility made them feel about the issue, 26 percent said they felt "Republicans should stick to their principles" and keep trying to pass the law. But 68 percent said "Republicans should move on to other issues."

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which is fighting to make Indiana the 23rd state with the law, blasted the polls as "a biased attempt to misrepresent public support" for the issue.

Kevin Brinegar, chamber president, said they have repeatedly polled and found support of as high as 77 percent for the issue when Hoosiers are asked if they support a law that "says a worker cannot be required to join a labor union or pay dues in order to get or keep a job."

Labor unions, of course, would say that's a biased question, too, in that the law already bars people from being required to join a union, though the contracts can require them to pay fees.

Republican and the chamber say Indiana needs "right to work" legislation on the books to help lure businesses here. No employee, they argue, should be compelled to financially contribute to a union.

Democrat leaders and labor unions have dubbed it the "right to work for less" legislation and argue that it will lead to lower wages and free-loading, as federal laws and court cases have said unions must represent all employees, including non-members.

Currently in Indiana, some labor contracts -- approved by management and labor union members -- require such representation fees and some do not.



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