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Labor law to be key issue in 2012

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In its November issue, Site Selection magazine awarded Indiana sixth place out of all states in its Top State Business Climate Rankings. But state Republican leaders say that Indiana will miss out on new jobs unless it adopts right-to-work legislation. Some Democrats have called that claim questionable.

Lawmakers have stated their intent to work together to find common ground, but with their opposing interpretations of what right-to-work laws do, they will likely spend a lot of time debating that point in 2012.

What it means

The National Labor Relations Act says that in a workplace where an employer and union have agreed upon a collective bargaining agreement, all employees – regardless of union membership – are covered by that labor agreement.

Only when an employer and union agree to a “union-security agreement” can an employer require all employees to be dues-paying members of the union. Even so, employees who don’t want to join the union may elect be “objectors,” paying only a portion of dues to cover union representation costs, like contract administration.

Right-to-work states have banned union-security agreements, meaning that objectors do not have to pay any portion of dues to the union but still benefit from its collective bargaining agreement.

What they’re saying

Democrats say right-to-work states erode unions by allowing workers to opt out of paying dues while enjoying the benefits, wages and other perks secured by union efforts. Republicans say right-to-work laws extend to Americans the freedom of choice they deserve.  

simpson-vi-mug.jpg Simpson

Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington, said she thinks a lot of misinformation exists about right-to-work laws.

Simpson said the argument in favor of right-to-work is that it creates favorable environments for business owners, who then bring jobs to right-to-work states. But she said that’s a claim that has not been proven. “In Oklahoma, for example, their unemployment actually went up after they passed right-to-work legislation,” Simpson said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that when Oklahoma passed right-to-work legislation in 2001, its unemployment rate was around 3 percent. Since then, its unemployment rate has risen along with, but not exceeding, the national unemployment rate. However, since 2002, the BLS reports Oklahoma’s union membership has declined by 39.6 percent, while nationwide, union membership decreased by 11.9 percent.

bill groth Groth

Labor attorney William Groth said he’s concerned about the intent of right-to-work laws.

“This isn’t about right to work – that’s a misnomer. Anybody and everybody has the right to work. What this effort is really about is a political attack against unions to weaken them politically by depriving them of revenue that they would be able to generate under security provisions.”

On Nov. 21, following a joint press conference, Rep. Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, issued a statement about their commitment to right-to-work laws.

“Right-to-work isn’t about unions – it is about freedom and economic opportunity,” Bosma said in the statement.

At the July 26 meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Employment Issues, then-Indiana Commerce Secretary Mitch Roob said that companies pass over Indiana because of its lack of right-to-work laws. As an example, he cited Boeing’s decision to build a new plant in South Carolina, saying Boeing never considered Indiana as a location. But he stopped short of saying that he knew the reason Boeing never considered Indiana.

bosma-brian-mug Bosma

Roob also said Volkswagen would not open a plant in Indiana because it is not a right-to-work state. Addressing his remarks, Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, reminded Roob that the Austrian company Fronius had opened a plant in her hometown a month earlier expressing no concerns about Indiana’s lack of right-to-work laws.

“And by the way, Volkswagen Europe is also totally unionized. Did they tell you that they weren’t coming to Indiana because we have unions and we didn’t have right-to-work?” Tallian asked.

Roob said he could not say on the record why Volkswagen did not build a new plant in Indiana.

In the committee meeting, Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, said that right-to-work is just one factor companies might consider when choosing where to do business. Texas – which is a right-to-work state – has experienced rapid job growth in recent years. But, Battles said, like most other right-to-work states, it is in the southern half of the country where weather-related shipping and transportation delays are negligible. Texas also has no state income tax.

Economics and liberties

The Nov. 22 statement issued by Long and Bosma said that many businesses, when choosing where to locate do not consider states without right-to-work laws. As support, the statement cites testimony during the July 26 study committee on employment issues, but does not attribute the testimony to anyone. It cites other sources, too, but none provide names of companies that have allegedly skipped over Indiana as a place to do business.
 

EXTRA
Click here to view the unemployment rates of states with and without right-to-work laws.

Bosma told Indiana Lawyer that while Indiana has one of the highest nationally ranked business climates in the country, he thinks the time to move forward with right-to-work legislation is now.

“If things were great here in Indiana and our economy was ticking along in great strides, it probably wouldn’t be the program to look at,” he said. “But despite all of our positive efforts and strict fiscal efforts as a state, we still have 9 percent unemployment here.”

Simpson said she worries that right-to-work laws will reduce wages. But it’s not clear how laws forbidding union-security agreements would lower workers’ pay if non-union members are still covered by collective bargaining agreements.

The BLS shows that in 2010, the median weekly wage of full-time workers who were members of unions was significantly higher than that of non-union workers. For example, male (age 16 and older) union members earned a median of $967 per week, while their non-union peers earned $789 per week.

Groth said that non-union members do have a say in how compulsory dues are applied.

“If I don’t like the union’s political stand or political contributions, I can tell my union that I want my dues reduced by the amount that is contributed to those activities,” he said.

Groth said right-to-work laws impede on the ability of businesses to make decisions.

“But this is exactly what right-to-work is all about – it’s the government telling businesses that they cannot include these security provisions in their agreements, he said”•

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  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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