Indiana House of Representiatives passes ‘right to work’ law

Here and Now

Indiana, where about 10 percent of the workforce are members of a union, is the 23rd state to pass a so-called right to work law.

The law effectively bans employment contracts that require workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The bill passed the Indiana House of Representatives last night and is expected to be signed by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. It also needs to win passage in the heavily Republican Senate, which isn’t expected to be a problem.

Unions worry that with a toehold in the traditionally pro-union rust belt, more states could follow Indiana’s lead.

Michelene Maynard, senior editor of Changing Gears, said this is a big deal.

“The labor movement is petrified by right-to-work laws. The last right-to-work law we saw was in Oklahoma in 2001, but most of them before that for 20 or 30 years. We’ve never seen one in the industrial Great Lakes,” Maynard said.

Maynard said this is a much bigger deal than what happened with public employee bargaining rights in Wisconsin and Ohio last year.

“Private sector unions and the unions that made the labor union famous,” she said.

Before right-to-work laws, if a union was formed in your workplace, you were required to pay the union dues because it is negotiating a contract that will cover you. So, you’re left with two choices: pay the dues and join the union, and get a vote in leadership and contracts, or pay the money and don’t join, and not get a vote. The new law would stipulate that only employers who join the union could be charged dues.

“You can try to form a union in the organization. You can try to negotiate a contract with management. But, your workforce does not have to pay you and your workforce does not have to join your organization,” Maynard said.

What remains to be seen is if these sorts of laws will spread. Maynard said proponents of right-to-work laws in places like Michigan will likely use the Indiana law as a reason to pass a similar bill in its state.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.