Project labor agreements under study

The Interim Study Committee on Employment met on September 7 to hear testimony on project labor agreements (PLAs).  This topic was assigned to the committee during the 2011 Session in HEA 1216 as a compromise to passing legislation that would have banned the use of union-only PLAs for public works projects in Indiana.

PLAs are a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project.  Before any workers are hired on the project, construction unions and contractors negotiate with each other to determine the wage rates and benefits of all employees working on the project and agree to prevent any strikes, lockouts, or other work stoppages for the length of the project.  Indiana law currently does not regulate the use of PLAs or what can and cannot be in those agreements.

Recent large scale construction projects built under PLAs in Indiana. From the Central Indiana Trades Council.

Continue reading

Employment Issues Study Committee covers “Right to Work” policy

On Tuesday July 26, 2011, a new Study Committee on Employment Issues met to hear testimony on the misleadingly titled “Right to Work” (RTW) legislation that prompted a five-week standoff during the 2011 session. Delaying a vote on the legislation and moving the subject matter to a study committee was the compromise made by legislators to end the standoff. 

A RTW policy would make it illegal for employees to negotiate with their employer an agreement that requires everyone who benefits from a union contract to pay their share of the negotiation costs. 

During the committee meeting, legislators heard testimony from both sides of the RTW issue from a variety of professors, economists, business owners, workers, and trade associations. This post recaps the major studies presented in committee and touches on the major issues affecting Indiana’s workforce. Form more information on all testimony, the official minutes of the meeting are also available.

RTW and Economic Growth: An economics professor from Ohio University presented a study conducted at the request of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, “Right-to-Work and Indiana’s Economic Future.”  In this study, the author argues that Indiana’s economy is in a slow, steady economic decline and RTW policies are a significant driving force behind economic growth.  To support this claim, the study states that on average, growth in real per capita incomes in RTW states is substantially higher than both the national average and non-RTW states (62% higher in 2008 than in 1977 for RTW states, and 53% higher for non-RTW states).

However, another study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) arrived at a strikingly different conclusion after using a more advanced statistical analysis. Continue reading

Mid-session review of Senate bills

This week was the mid-session deadline for Senate bills to advance out of the Senate. Beginning February 28, the Senate will begin work on House bills that were approved in that chamber. This brief summary includes highlights of a few of the 198 bills approved by the Senate that are now eligible for action in the House of Representatives:

Controversial bills restricting organized labor
Thousands of laborers, teachers and students came together at the Statehouse this week to rally against bills that would have a negative impact on working families, including measures that would restrict their ability to organize and limit collective bargaining with employers on a variety of topics. Continue reading

Feb. 23 media availability with Sen. Vi Simpson

On Wednesday, Feb. 23 Senate Democrat Leader Vi Simpson held a media availability to update the public at the mid-point of the legislative session and answer questions on recent Statehouse events.

The video and audio provided below was recorded during this media availability as Sen. Simpson replied to questions from Statehouse reporters.

When asked about the decision by the House Democrats to walk out this week, blocking a votes on several divisive bills, Sen. Simpson explained it is the constitutional right of the minority to use that tool to make their concerns heard when more traditional negotiations fail. She said it’s not an option to be taken lightly, and pointed out that House Republicans have also used the tactic in the past when they felt they needed to do so.

“It’s in the constitution. It’s a constitutional right of the minority…”

Sen. Simpson told reporters she has thought since the beginning of the session that the real question was how the Republican leadership in each chamber was going to control the radical agenda of a few members. This week’s events show that radical agenda has led to the shut-down in the House.

“You know at the beginning of this session…”

Will Senate Democrats support the Senate Republican leadership’s proposal that the so-called right to work bill (House Bill 1468) become a study committee on the topic?

“I don’t know how much more we need to study right to work…”

When will House Democrats return?

“I  believe that the House Democrats who are in Illinois…”

“This legislative process works best when people come together and compromise…”

Why is the so-called “right to work” bill and other bills aimed at organized labor and public education are so important?

“Everybody who works for a living should be concerned…”

“This whole notion that public employees should not be able to collectively bargain…”

“There is lack of knowledge about what labor unions have done for this nation…”

House Democrats release statement on Tuesday’s events


February 22, 2011


INDIANAPOLIS – The members of the Indiana House Democratic Caucus have issued the following statement on today’s events at the Indiana House of Representatives:

“The past few days have seen an unprecedented attack on Hoosier families by a radical House Republican agenda that will hurt millions in both the classroom and the pocketbook.

“House Democrats find it hard to believe that these proposals affecting so many are being advanced in the name of ‘reform.’ In point of fact, they are anti-child and anti-worker, and there needs to be sufficient time for the people of this state to examine the length and depth of what is being attempted here.

“The House Republicans are pursuing legislation that is diverting state tax dollars toward for-profit private schools through programs like charters and vouchers. This comes at a time when public schools already have been reeling from $600 million in spending cuts ordered by Gov. Mitch Daniels over the past two years.

“As more public money goes toward for-profit private schools, the funding available for public schools grows smaller and smaller. That means larger classes, as well as cuts in programs, instruction and materials that will adversely affect children who will never have a chance to attend a private school. In addition, House Republicans are seeking legislation that enables private schools to avoid many of the rules and regulations imposed on public schools.

“But the attacks do not stop there. House Republicans have advanced a second set of proposals that declare war on working families across this state. They attempt to portray these attacks as efforts to create jobs, but proposals like right to work have a documented history of driving down incomes for working men and women.

“We are pleased Gov. Daniels agrees with us that right to work does not need to be heard now, although it must be pointed out that he doesn’t rule out future consideration of this issue.

“Right now there are close to 300,000 Hoosiers who find themselves without jobs, and are desperately looking for ways to support their families. To date this session, the only thing the House Republicans have told these people is that if they lose their jobs, their unemployment benefits are going to be cut 25 percent.

“Hoosiers already make only 85 cents for every $1 earned by the average American, and these anti-worker proposals have been proven to slash wages by an average of $5,500 each year. They have had enough, which is why thousands of working men and women have appeared at the Indiana Statehouse these past few days. Their voices need to be heard.

“Indiana House Democrats will continue to deliberate on these issues until their full implications are grasped and debated.

“Despite his recent statements, the governor still has the ability to compel our attendance, which is why we have relocated to Urbana, Illinois, for the immediate future. By staying here, we will be giving the people of Indiana a chance to find out more about this radical agenda and speak out against it.

“We will remain here until we get assurances from the governor and House Speaker Brian Bosma that these bills will not be called down in the House at any time this session. Our leader, State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend), is ready to talk to the Speaker any time. All the Speaker has to do is call.”

–  30  –

Attached are the bills of concern to House Democrats:


HB 1002 Charter School Expansion. Diverts state funding to experimental schools at a time when the state has cut funding to local schools by $600 million over the past two years.

HB 1003 School Vouchers. Allows a family of four making over $80,000 a year to receive taxpayer dollars to send their children to a private school.

HB 1479 Private Takeover of Public Schools. Allows the state of Indiana to take over poorly performing schools and for these schools to be managed by for-profit companies.  It removes local decision making in schools.

HB 1584 Public School Waiver of state laws. Allows school boards to seek waivers of almost any school law or regulation.


HB 1468 Right to work. Places the government between employers and their workers. It weakens the ability of working people to bargain for fair wages and safe work environments.

HB 1216 Public Works Projects and Common Construction Wage. Weakens the ability of government to ensure that tax dollars are paid to the best and most qualified workers on public works projects, and that these tax dollars are spent at home.

HB 1203 Employee representations. Ends employee rights to join a union by secret ballot and opens employees up to retaliation and firing by an employer who finds out they are trying to use their right to bargain.  This is preempted by federal law.  Will require the state to use taxpayer dollars to defend this legislation.

HB 1450 Unemployment Insurance. Shifts hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes from big businesses to small business and will cut benefits for unemployed workers by 25%.

HB 1585 Right to work for Public Employees. Removes collective bargaining rights at the local level.

HB 1538 Minimum wages. Precludes a community from determining what wages are appropriate for its area.

HB 1001 Budget Bill. Allowed no public testimony on a school funding formula that cuts state support for K-12 across Indiana.

Hoosier laborers and educators protest attacks on worker rights

Sen. Tim Skinner addresses the crowd in the Statehouse.

On Monday, over 3,500 Hoosier laborers and teachers crowded the Statehouse to fight against Republican-proposed attacks on the rights of workers. Despite rainy conditions, union members lined the Statehouse sidewalks, waiting to enter the building and ask legislators to vote down numerous bills that would restrict their ability to organize and limit collective bargaining with employers on a variety of topics including safety conditions.

At a Statehouse press conference, Senate Democrat Leader Vi Simpson spoke out against several of the proposed bills moving through both chambers that she says are an assault on working families.

LISTEN: Sen. Simpson

Sen. Tim Skinner, a high school teacher in Terre Haute, protested against the attacks on teachers’ rights and the unfair promotion of charter schools.

LISTEN: Sen. Skinner

“Anybody in education knows that full day kindergarten is a plus for kids…”


“Governor Daniels is expanding charter schools. He has been consistently cutting funding for public education…”

Also in attendance to back the rights of Indiana’s hardworking wage earners were Senate Democrats Jean Breaux of Indianapolis, Greg Taylor of Indianapolis, Karen Tallian of Portage, Tim Lanane of Anderson, Frank Mrvan of Hammond and Jim Arnold of LaPorte.