Big Labor’s Retreat Continues in the Hoosier State


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The growing war between big labor and state governments flared on another front in the center of America yesterday, as the battle lines spread from Wisconsin to Indiana, where a Republican sponsored right to work bill moved forward. In an eight to five party-line vote, the bill passed through the House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee. It will now be considered by the entire Indiana House, where Republicans outnumber Democrats by sixty seats to forty. Union leaders and their allies on the left are pushing back as hard as they can in Indianapolis as they are in Madison, working to portray this legislation as just another “assault on the working man” designed to line the pockets of modern-day robber barons. That line of messaging has been big labor’s most effective public relations strategy for decades, because it played to America’s instinctive propensity to root for the underdog. Yet, developments in Indiana are further evidence that more and more people believe that too many labor unions aren’t fighting “the man” any longer; the powerful unions have instead become the man.

Reform in New Jersey and on-going attempts at reform in Wisconsin have been limited to public sector unions. Indiana represents another step in the process, this time dipping into the private sector. Twenty two states currently carry right to work laws on their books, all of which are in the south or lie to the west of the Mississippi. If Indiana joins the club, it will be the first industrial rust-belt state to do so, a move that would put a good deal of pressure on its neighbors. The Midwest’s other traditional industrial powers – Ohio, Michigan and Illinois – have been struggling economically for a while, hemorrhaging both employers and jobs at alarming rates, even factoring in the recession. A right to work state smack in the middle of the three would undoubtedly increase the bleeding and force each to consider making a similar move, or see the rate of decay accelerate as Indiana prospered. It’s all well and good to declare that you’re for the working man, but that message isn’t going to resonate for long in a state where there’s no work to be had.

Advocates of forced-unionism argue that right to work laws are designed to line the pockets of evil corporations by picking the pockets of workers. That argument may have contained elements of truth during the hey-day of J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller (and there is a good deal of disagreement among historians about how bad the so-called robber-barons actually were), but it’s hardly a relevant representation in 21st century America. By any measurable standard, workers make more money, live better, have more employment opportunities and are happier in right to work states than they are in forced-unionism states. The supposed benefits of forced-unionism for workers are wholly theoretical. The only group that actually benefits from forced-unionism is union leadership. In an editorial published on February 3, the Wall Street Journal outlined the case for right to work laws:

A new study in the Cato Journal by economist Richard Vedder finds that from 2000 to 2008 some 4.7 million Americans moved from forced-union to right-to-work states. The study also found that from 1977 through 2007 there was “a very strong and highly statistically significant relationship between right-to-work laws and economic growth.” Right-to-work states experienced a 23% faster rise in per capita income over that period. The two regions that have lost the most jobs in recent years, the once-industrial Northeast and Midwest, are mostly forced-union states.

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  • davarino

    I was in the iron workers union when I was young and could see the writing on the wall then. Those guys were shooting themselves in the foot then and they are doing now. The majority of the populace do not feel sorry for you guys anymore. I guess you will have to go back to busting heads.

  • Sath

    Same with davarino. I was with the Steal (steel) Workers and there was no give to them when the company was doing good. But when the company was loosing jobs it was so, screw you we got it and were not giving it up. The company closed. I was lucky enough to have 29 years and went to a sister plant to finish out my retirement. It was a private sector factory and the retirement is $425 and no insurance, well thats wrong- I can buy it for $2800 @ month for me and my wife. At one time the unions were necessary, at my time I called them a necessary evil. To keep the company in check. I was at one time or another secretary, barging committie, vice president and all the while I argued with the international union rep. In fact was thretned when I called him out during a union meeting when the company was doing due diligence to sell the place.

  • BAW

    One big reason, IMHO, for what's going on here is the lack of equality of sacrifice on the part of public employee unions.

    While private sector workers have been laid off, taken pay cuts/demotions, paid more for their benefits, taken on extra responsibilities at work, put off retirement, cut back on spending, reduced debt, and adjusted their expectations, and while private businesses have been doing more with less and competing more intensely, public sector workers have not only been unscathed during the economic situation of the last 2 years, they've seen their standard of living increase in some cases.

    Now, with tough choices to be made, the private sector majority is quite rankled that the public sector won't even make small concessions.

    The recent economic troubles would likely be easier to bear if everyone made some sacrifice to get through. So, when the government says "we need to make sacrifices and compete" the citizenry thinks "what do you mean 'we?'"

    In short, the public sector needed to "get real" for a long time, and that day is today.

    • Jim_C

      Your last statement: right on the money.

      Public sector employees in many cases have not had wages keep up with cost of living, and they don't really see as much gravy when times are good the way private sector employees do, but the tradeoff–and it is a big one–is they are far more sheltered in terms of job security. So if my idea of "sacrifice" is losing my job while yours is "Wah! I have to pay more into my pension!" your pleas for sympathy aren't going to come off too well.

      Plus, this "working people" crap has got to go. "Working people" as opposed to who?

  • JosephWiess

    In my opinion government employees shouldn't form unions, because federal employees already make more money than private sector employees.
    Think about it, if the unions were so powerful in the private sector, they wouldn't need government employees or state employees in their unions.

    • coyote

      Well, I don't know if they should be prohibited from forming "unions". A little "constitutionally incorrect" I would say. However, the idea of public sector unions negotiating contracts, and private sector unions doing the same, is not the same. In the private sector, there is the company which represents the interests of the owners/shareholders. It is their money, if they believe they can live with certain contract terms, then so be it. In the public sector, however, the elected officials are the ones negotiating the contract, and the employees on the other side. The money involved, does not belong to the elected officials. They, and their agencies, produce no money, except tax money, which all belongs to the tax payers. In other words, the elected officials have no "skin" in the game. Also, it is tempting to accept support, financial and otherwise, from public sector unions. So, now, we have a situation which, while not illegal in and of itself, is potentially a conflict of interest. My point is that no one represents the taxpayers in these situations, and that is why I am opposed to collective bargaining for public employees,

  • BS77

    The entitlements and benefits gravy train is coming to a stop…..The gold plated packages government employees feel they deserve are going the way of dial telephones….Most government bureaucrats do little to strengthen our economy….but take enormous tax revenues for their pensions, insurance, benefits, paid vacations etc etc….it is an era that is coming to an end.

  • "gunner"

    before i retired i worked as a guard/driver for a northeast regional armoured truck company. when a union came around to "organise" us i told the branch manager "if the union comes in i'm gone" i worked in a union "closed shop" once, that was enough. in my opinion today's unions are just another thieving hand in a working man's pocket

  • "gunner"

    add above: the union had to hold a secret ballot election, which never happened, when they realised they were not going to win they walked away. when you're dealing with employees who carry guns as a condition of employment your options for "muscling" them are kind of limited.

  • alexander

    I have to pay for their salaries and benefits…..about TWO to FOUR times larger than mine….
    And my gove forces me to do so…..
    Where is my USA??

  • Supreme_Galooty

    "Right to work" should be codified in our constitution. Mandatory participation in a union is against freedom. Unions should be able to gain membership through the principle of attraction. If participation is mandatory, the unions do not have to compete for the dues money, and thus their incentive to perform is significantly reduced.

    Unionism also damages the environment of achievement oriented advancement in the workplace. The shoddy are paid the same as the highly productive; small merit-based pay increases are impossible in a union shop. The only opportunity for advancement is promotion to the management team – not everyone's desire. But the attentive, energetic, talented laborer is penalized by union membership.

  • PittsburghSteeler

    Reminds me of something I read; about how the Union for Power Workers went on strike against the Duquesne Light Company, in February 1946, just after David L. Lawrence became Mayor of Pittsburgh. As a result, Pittsburgh was without power–totally in the dark–for two weeks. (Hospitals were operating on emergency power) Presumably, it was over a relatively minor(25 cents an hour) wage adjustment, but it was really about control, just as it is today. (Lawrence handled the strike badly, and it ended 8 months later, in a stalemate)

    Exploitation of workers was certainly more common a century ago; when there were
    incidents like the 1911 Triangle Shirt Factory fire. Today, it is all about union control of the private sector, and government. The power of the Unions must be reduced. Long live Governor Scott Walker. And modify the 1935 Wagner Act, too.

    PittsburghSteeler

  • Maria

    Lenin who was a leader of Russian bloodiests revolution 1917 wrote in one of his work that Unions are school of communism. Nothing changed. Unions here is school and base for leftists/socialists/neo-communists. They support marxists/socialists Obama and then Obama paid back them from stimulus package. By the way where is 800 Billions stimulus? Those money triggered this crisis as after stimulus bill passed, defficit increased by 4(four) times!!! He wanted to bankrupt USA and seize power forever.
    Uninons help him to do it. All those protestors are orchestrating by WH. Wake up America!

  • Amused

    Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said that he, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Gov. Mitch Daniels all agree that the matter instead should be studied by a legislative committee later this year.

    The so-called “right to work” bill would bar companies and unions from negotiating a contract that would require non-union employees to pay a fee for representation.

    Democrats in the Indiana House fled to Illinois in order to deny the Republicans the quorum they needed of 67 representatives to do busisnes in the House. That effectively killed the bill in the House, and Bosma and Long both said this morning they would not revive it.

    The Republican Assault on collective bargaining and Union Busting is running into a brick wall ….called The American Public .

    • Union Watcher

      If that was my choice, I would rather pay a one-time fee for collective bargaining representation; than pay yearly union dues, and be subject to often ridiculous and sometimes intimidating union rules; such a being forced to strike against my will.
      At least with the Right to Work bill, the worker has a choice.

    • Fiddler

      A poll says that 48% nationwide polled agree with Gov Walker. Why don't you amuse yourself with the fact that when people are informed about the cost of paying for their and someone elses insurance, they come around. The democratic party LOVES ignorance among voters. It is sheer STUPIDITY to think that people are so naive as to WANT to fund publich worker's insurance. To think otherwise is counter-intuitive to put it mildly.

      The left's worst enemy is fact.

  • Amused

    BTW Maria , wanna bring up Lenin and his tactics ? This is what the Indianna Deputy Attorney General [a republican ] had to say about the protesters in Wisconsin :

    On Saturday night, when Mother Jones staffers tweeted a report that riot police might soon sweep demonstrators out of the Wisconsin capitol building—something that didn't end up happening—one Twitter user sent out a chilling public response: "Use live ammunition."

    From my own Twitter account, I confronted the user, JCCentCom. He tweeted back that the demonstrators were "political enemies" and "thugs" who were "physically threatening legally elected officials." In response to such behavior, he said, "You're damned right I advocate deadly force." He later called me a "typical leftist," adding, "liberals hate police."

    Only later did we realize that JCCentCom was a deputy attorney general for the state of Indiana.