So why will the Indiana victory break this logjam? Three reasons. First, unions are in a depleted state after fending off attacks in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Ohio. They may no longer be able to fight effectively on new fronts, especially if they lose the recall petition against Walker, which looks likely. His law is gaining popularity every day as public schools, for example, regain control over their budgets and teachers.
Second, anemic growth and state budgets saddled with public employee legacy costs have shifted opinion in a pro-right-to-work direction. In Michigan, the union epicenter, the issue has been drawing over 50 percent support for a while.
But, above all, Indiana will both intensify the competitive pressure on its neighbors and offer lessons that they can’t ignore. So long as none of the Rust Belt states was right-to-work, they could all blame other factors for their manufacturing woes. With Indiana breaking ranks, this is a less viable political sell. A highly regarded 1998 study by Thomas Holmes of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found that manufacturing employment as a percentage of county population increased by a third in right-to-work counties compared to bordering non-right-to-work ones. If Indiana becomes an attractive destination for manufacturers in the Midwest, its neighbors can hardly sit on their derrieres and watch.