Indiana became the 23rd state to pass right-to-work laws that end the practice of closed shops and forced dues payments. Mitch Daniels’ signature also makes Indiana the first Rust Belt state, long the locus of union political power, to adopt such laws. As one might imagine, that decision didn’t come without a protest from the unions, which turned out to be futile:
Indiana became the 23rd state to pass anti-union “right-to-work” legislation on Wednesday and the first in the nation’s manufacturing heartland, dealing a blow to organized labor by allowing workers to opt out of paying union dues.
Indiana’s Republican governor Mitch Daniels signed the legislation into law immediately after it was given final approval in the state Senate, making Indiana the first state to adopt such a measure since Oklahoma did so a decade ago.
Daniels, governor since 2005 and a prominent spokesman for Republicans nationally, said he decided Indiana needed the controversial new law after several businesses decided to locate elsewhere.
“Seven years of evidence and experience ultimately demonstrated that Indiana did need a right-to-work law to capture jobs for which, despite our highly rated business climate, we are not currently being considered,” he said in a statement after signing the bill.
Union activists crowded into the state capitol in a scene reminiscent of Madison, Wisconsin from almost a year ago — but more orderly. When they failed to intimidate the state Senate into rejecting the bill, they spilled outside for a rally that loudly condemned the passage of the bill:
Thousands of union members gathered inside the Statehouse chanted “Shame on you!” and “See you at the Super Bowl!” as the vote was announced. Thousands more amassed outside for a rally that spilled into the Indianapolis streets, already bustling with Super Bowl festivities, hoping to point a national spotlight on the state.
Indiana will be the first state in a decade to enact a right-to-work law, although few states with legislation in place boast Indiana’s union clout, borne of a long manufacturing legacy. The move is likely to embolden national right-to-work advocates who have unsuccessfully pushed the measure in other states following a Republican sweep of statehouses in 2010.
The local NBC affiliate gives a look at the protests:
Unions will get a chance to keep up the spectacle for a few days leading up to the Super Bowl, but then they face the dilemma I described yesterday. They now have three fronts on which to fight in 2012: Indiana, Wisconsin, and Arizona. That means that they have to split their resources to fight Republican reformers on bills that, at least in Wisconsin, produce results that end up making the people who pass them look pretty good to voters. Scott Walker now has a 51/46 approval rating in the Badger State in the face of a recall election, and among independents it’s even better at 54%. When polled against his likely recall opponents, Walker wins by between seven and eleven points. And here is how the reforms Walker initiated play in Wisconsin now:
• 74 percent favored and 22 percent opposed requiring state workers to pay more for pension and health benefits
• 66 percent favored and 32 percent opposed the state’s new voter ID law
• 48 percent favored and 47 percent opposed limiting state employee unions’ ability to bargain over benefits and non-wage issues
• 46 percent favored and 51 percent opposed the new law legalizing the possession of concealed weapons
Unions will have a difficult time winning that recall election, and now they have to take on two more states just as Barack Obama needs their undivided attention for the presidential election. They’re likely to spread themselves so thin that they risk losing across the board, especially in Wisconsin, where they may lose all credibility.