Monday, June 24th, 2019

Let the right-to-work games begin

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012

Today’s joint committee hearing on right-to-work marked the policy’s first major step this legislative session. The lengthy proceeding, which began at 9 a.m. and ended at 2:30 p.m., led off with authors of the respective House and Senate bills: Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel) and Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury).

Torr stressed this policy is about “freedom for individual workers” to decide to join a union, and that it was needed and not redundant with current law. He also pointed to the economic development impact: up to half of companies “just simply don’t look at” states without a right-to work law when determining where to locate.

Yoder, who is carrying the bill in the Senate, asked: “What is wrong with forcing somebody (the unions in this case) to prove that their product works? Why is this such a scary proposition?”

The next four hours were taken up by testimony of proponents and opponents, and follow-up questions from committee members. Indiana Chamber President Kevin Bringear focused on debunking three big myths perpetuated by union leaders: Right-to-work leads to lower wages, makes for more unsafe work environments and would destroy unions.

Regarding wages, Brinegar said that when per capita personal income in each state is adjusted for the cost of living in that state, a true wage picture is given. This picture shows that “per capita personal income, or more specifically the purchasing power of wages within each state, is actually higher in right-to-work states.” (See Brinegar’s full testimony for all the comments and statistics cited.)

When it comes to worker safety, Brinegar declared that right-to-work states are appreciably better off. He cited analysis by Ron Cooper, president of the Indiana Compensation Rating Bureau. In fact, Brinegar said eight of the 10 safest states are right-to-work-states and this also holds true when looking just at the construction industry.

Rounding out his remarks, Brinegar clarified that unions have been declining for years in all states, regardless of whether they are right-to-work or not – and that the rate of decline was similar.

He also made a point that the Indiana Chamber represents the entire businesses community, but only those who want to join pay dues.

Fred Morgan, president of the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce and a former state lawmaker there, talked about the impact a right-to-work law has had in that state. (Oklahoma was the last state to adopt a law, doing so in 2001). Morgan said Oklahoma has seen job growth since the passage of right-to-work and noted that the state’s current unemployment rate is 6.1%, which is well below the national average of 8.5 %.

He also emphasized Oklahoma has seen its per capita income increase at a faster rate than its neighbors since the adoption of right-to-work, plus job announcements are up 94% during that time.

John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, hammered home the notion of how could Indiana choose not do something to help create more jobs, calling that lack of action “almost unimaginable.” He testified that for six years business site selectors have told him that Indiana’s lack of a right-to-work law hurts the state.

“What we do control as Hoosiers is creating a set of conditions for businesses to do work. … The world changed, and if we don’t change, we won’t be creating jobs,” Sampson stated. He went on to say if Indiana didn’t change the perception of what it’s like to do business here that the state won’t be competitive in the global marketplace.

A national site selector told the room that not being right-to-work can definitely weed out some states from competing to land companies: “I’ve done three major projects for a Fortune 500 client in the last five years, and this (right-to-work) is a factor that’s important to them.”

A number of other local chamber and businesspeople also weighed in on the economic and jobs benefits of Indiana becoming a right-to-work state. A union worker even testified he would like to see right-to-work, on the belief it can improve the job his union is doing and make it more accountable.

After all the discussion, the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee approved its right-to-work measure 6-4, moving it on to the full Senate for possible amendments and a floor vote.

Meanwhile the House remains in limbo thanks to the Democrats failing to be present to do their job (see “In Other News” story), meaning no bills have officially been introduced there so no action can be taken. How long this tactic can last remains to be seen, as there are other major pieces of legislation that House Democrats want to see accomplished this session – including passing a smoking ban bill that the Indiana Chamber also supports.

Regardless, legislators need to hear from you about right-to-work. You can easily make that important connection through