Despite numerous objections by Senate Democrats, the Indiana Senate voted 28 to 22 to approve Senate Bill (SB) 269, the controversial “Right to Work” bill, on Monday. Senate Democrats argued that the legislation will be harmful to Indiana workers, working families and local economies by lowering average incomes statewide. Democrats also argued that the legislation is unnecessary due to current federal protections for those who choose not to join organized labor and that no concrete evidence has been presented showing that not having this policy has stifled job growth in the state. Nine Republicans voted with the 13 Democrats in the Senate in opposition to the bill.
Senate Democratic Leader Vi Simpson says the bill doesn’t confer rights, but instead makes it illegal for unions to make employees who benefit from negotiated salary, safety and benefit terms pay their fair share of the cost of providing those benefits.
SEN. SIMPSON: “This so-called “Right to Work” bill is not conferring any rights to a job on anyone…”
State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) said the issue is really about the ability to join as a collective voice and the strength of the middle class embodied by the union movement.
SEN. TALLIAN: “This legislation is a classic class fight between unfettered, unrestricted, unregulated capitalism…”
State Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) said the legislation is about paying one’s fair share. He also questioned the wisdom in the state’s interference in contracts between employees and employers as proposed under the bill.
SEN. LANANE: “There is one thing that I think is absolutely true, that is that this bill will hurt unions…”
State Senator John Broden (D-South Bend) says Right to Work will set off a decline in wages because every study shows that where an industry is unionized, wages are higher for all workers in the area not just those in the union.
SEN. BRODEN: “After having heard all the debate…”
SEN. BRODEN: “Every study shows that where an industry or area is unionized…”
State Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said the legislation will hurt working class families and lower wages.
SEN. TAYLOR: “This is an effort by people to stomp on the interests of working class citizens…”
State Senator Tim Skinner (D-Terre Haute) said he is concerned that the message this bill sends is counterproductive for workers and businesses. He says he is convinced that this bill will bring wages down, not help families make a living in Indiana.
SEN. SKINNER: “I taught in a very blue collar area of Terre Haute. A lot of kids whose families were in unions…”
State Senator Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) said she is concerned that the legislation will begin a spiral of low quality jobs with lower wages in Indiana.
SEN. BREAUX: “My fear is that if we introduce ‘Right to Work’ that not only will we see a decrease in wages…”
State Senator Frank Mrvan (D-Hammond) said the legislation targets a fabricated problem at the expense of working families in the state.
SEN. MRVAN: “I think this ‘Right to Work’ law is phantom issue…”
Last week, Senate Democrats offered a number of amendments to the bill, including a referendum proposal that would allow the law to be voted on by the public.
SB 269 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. A companion bill, House Bill 1001, is also now moving through the House and may be voted on in that chamber on Tuesday. Either of the bills could become law if approved by both chambers, as Governor Daniels has committed to signing the legislation into law.