Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Indiana Union Bill: Even with Dems AWOL, Lawmakers Move Closer to Vote

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Indiana Union Bill: Even with Dems AWOL, Lawmakers Move Closer to Vote

Article excerpt

Most Indiana Democrats have stayed away from the opening of the state House session out of protest for a bill they say is harmful to unions. Still, a committee held a hearing on the bill Friday.

Most Indiana Democrats were absent from the House floor in Indianapolis Friday, the third day of session they skipped to protest a proposed bill they say is harmful to unions.

But their absence Friday did not prevent a House committee from hearing more than five hours of testimony on the bill in question, which would ban negotiations between a union and company if workers are forced to pay fees for representation.

The committee ended the day by voting to send the bill to the House for a full vote, which Republicans say will happen next week. However, a quorum in that chamber is needed for the vote. Actions by Democrats suggest they are not worried about the fines, at $1,000 per day per lawmaker, that they face for not showing up.

Republicans will get their vote, but it's a matter of when, says Brian Vargus, a political scientist at Indiana University in Indianapolis. Democrats are reluctant to give the Republican majority a victory because it may weaken union support.

"Unions are big contributors to the Democrats, and they feel with the decline of unionization, it would solidify Republicans. It simply comes down to that," Mr. Vargus says.

The area's diminished role in the steel and automotive industries has resulted in declining membership for Indiana unions. In 2010, the share of workers in Indiana who were unionized was 10.9 percent, lower than the national average of 11.9 percent, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Last year, Indiana's Republican leadership passed a collective- bargaining law that weakens the negotiating power of public unions in the state. The so-called right-to-work bill being contemplated this session would further clamp down on union activity.

Collective-bargaining legislation has been a bumpier road for neighboring states in the Midwest. For example, although Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) saw his collective-bargaining bill become law, it was not without a major fight that continues today with a recall effort to remove him from office. …

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