Indiana right-to-work bill heading for final vote

January 29, 2012 10:00:00 PM PST
An Indiana Senate committee has passed a right-to-work bill, and Governor Mitch Daniels says he is ready to sign the bill once it clears the full senate.

The bill is expected to clear the senate on Wednesday.

The right-to-work bill is controversial. Protestors were on hand at Indiana's state capitol for Monday's committee vote.

Indiana could be a right-to-work state as early as Wednesday. 22 states are already right-to-work states.

There are strong arguments on both sides of the issue. A right-to-work law would give an employee the option to pay into a union or not.

A business expansion project in northwest Indiana brought work for local carpenters. Some of those workers met with ABC7 on their lunch breaks to discuss proposed legislation that they say jeopardizes their future.

"It's very upsetting... and scary, too, especially for the younger members," said United Brotherhood of Carpenters member Tim Lovely. "I got a son that's 20 years old... a second-year apprentice... we don't know where we're gonna be ten years from now."

"I personally have no problem with the dues money that I pay for the representation that I receive," said United Brotherhood of Carpenters member Darrin O'Mara.

Indiana House Bill 1001 is commonly known as the right-to-work legislation. It would prohibit contracts between companies and unions that require workers pay union dues as a condition of employment.

"We believe that this legislation would bring greater levels of business investment and jobs into our state," said Kevin Brimegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Supporters of the bill say it is not an attempt at union-busting but an attempt to make the state more competitive.

"It doesn't affect organizing - that's not touched by this bill and couldn't be - it doesn't affect bargaining," said Ed Roberts of the Indiana Manufacturers Association. "It doesn't do any of those things that you've heard."

The Indiana Senate Labor Committee approved the bill despite three Democrats who boycotted the meeting and chants ringing through the hallways of the capitol building.

"Indiana has been positioned very well, has one of the lower tax rates in the Midwest and throughout the country, and it's a good place to do business now, and we've done very well in Indiana without this and we don't need it now," said Dan Murchek of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor.

Michael Holmes is a carpenter from Mississippi, a right-to-work state. He says he saw his wages go from $16.56 to $14.00 an hour. Now, he is commuting out of state every week for a higher wage in Northwest Indiana.

"I didn't feel like I could provide for my family," said Holmes. "I have four daughters and a wife, and I didn't think I could make it on those wages that were down there."

The bill goes to the full senate Wednesday. If there are no amendments, Daniels says he will sign it into law Wednesday.

Most of the union members and leadership ABC7 spoke with Monday in northwest Indiana plan to go to Indianapolis Wednesday to make their voices heard before the vote.