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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. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  2. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  3. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  4. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  5. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

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