Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels Sabotages Right to Work Law

(Source: March 2011 NRTWC Newsletter)

In Contrast, Maine Governor Stands Up For His Avowed Principles

Eight years ago, Indiana citizens who were determined to free themselves and their fellow Hoosiers from the shackles of compulsory unionism launched what they knew from the beginning would be a sustained, and often difficult, effort to pass a state Right to Work law.

Ever since then, the organization these citizens put into high-gear in 2003, the Indiana Right to Work Committee, has mobilized an ever-loudening drumbeat of support for employee freedom.

Over the course of the ongoing campaign, the Indianapolis-based Right to Work group has benefited from the counsel and experience of the National Right to Work Committee.

And National Committee members and supporters who live in the Hoosier State, roughly 119,000 strong and growing in number year after year, have been the bulwark of the Indiana Right to Work campaign.

Stubborn Opposition to Right to Work Has Ended Long Political Careers in Indiana

In the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 state election cycles, pro-Right to Work Hoosiers sent thousands upon thousands of postcards, letters, and e-mail messages to their legislative candidates urging them to oppose forced unionism. Right to Work activists also reinforced the point with phone calls and personal visits.

Since the Indiana Committee emerged as a major statewide citizens lobby, many politicians who once rode the fence have decided to take a stand in favor of Right to Work. Other politicians who stubbornly continued to carry water for, or at least appease, Big Labor have gone down to defeat.

For example, in early 2005, then-Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton (R-Columbus) told National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix that Right to Work legislation wouldn’t get a floor vote in his chamber as long as he held his leadership position.

In 2006, Mr. Garton, a 36-year incumbent and the longest serving Senate pro tem in American history, was defeated by primary challenger Greg Walker, an underfunded political novice. A critical asset Mr. Walker did have going for him was his 100% support for Right to Work.

That same year, 26-year state Rep. Mary Kay Budak (R-LaPorte) was ousted in a primary upset by pro-Right to Work challenger Tom Dermody. A few months earlier, Ms. Budak had been one of the minority of House Republicans who voted with Big Labor to defeat an amendment that would have made Indiana a Right to Work state.

While Mr. Garton and Ms. Budak are Republicans, the vast majority of Big Labor collaborators in the Indiana Legislature have been Democrats. That’s why, last year especially, major Right to Work electoral gains have been a boon for Republican leaders.

This year, Republicans are solidly in control of the Indiana Senate and the Indiana House of Representatives, and majorities in both chambers are on the record in support of passing a Right to Work law that would bar the firing of employees for refusal to pay dues or fees to an unwanted union.

If Mitch Daniels, Indiana’s GOP governor, had wanted his state to have a Right to Work law, he could almost certainly have gotten it this year.

Actions of Indiana Governor Belie His Professed Support For Right to Work Principle

Right to Work supporters in Indiana and around the country have long known Mr. Daniels was no stalwart foe of forced unionism. But they have also had ample grounds to hope after their 2010 Hoosier State election sweep that the governor wouldn’t stand in their way.

Mr. Daniels himself late last year admitted that Indiana’s lack of a Right to Work “does hold us back economically. There’s no doubt about it.” In the same interview, he was indirectly quoted as referring to Right to Work as a “valid idea.”

But even as he continued to try to avoid angering the pro-Right to Work majority of Indianans by purporting to agree with them, Mr. Daniels waged a low-key but devastating campaign from late last fall into mid-February to block passage of Right to Work legislation in Indiana.

Time and again, publicly as well as in private, the glum governor put out the word that he opposed any serious debates or recorded votes over Right to Work this year.

Mr. Daniels offered a few flimsy excuses for his dour determination to sabotage legislation that clearly had sufficient House and Senate support to pass and that was overwhelmingly favored by Hoosiers generally and by his own political base in particular.

For example, the governor claimed it would be wrong for the Legislature to pass a Right to Work law in 2011, because the issue hadn’t been discussed in the 2010 elections.

This was laughably false. In reality, last year alone the Indiana and national Right to Work organizations sent out roughly 278,000 pieces of targeted mail identifying the forced-unionism positions of state legislative incumbents and challengers and urging citizens to lobby their politicians on the issue.

“Issue-oriented mailings went out not just to members and other identified Right to Work supporters, but also to vast numbers of other people our organizations believed were likely supportive of the cause,” noted National Committee President Mark Mix.

“We practically mailed the phone book in targeted districts. We felt safe doing so, because we knew from poll after poll that roughly 80% of Indianans support the Right to Work principle.

“This Daniels excuse is the opposite of the truth. In all probability, Indiana candidates’ stands on Right to Work were better known by the public last year than their stands on any other single issue.”

Speaker Kept Right to Work Measures Bottled up Until It Was Too Late

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma (Indianapolis), despite having personally vowed to the National Committee board of directors in 2004 that he would do everything necessary to make Indiana a Right to Work state as soon as he had a chance to do so, kept Right to Work measures bottled up in committee this year at the governor’s behest.

Only on February 21, the last day before all House measures that had not been approved by the entire chamber would automatically die, did Mr. Bosma allow a pro forma hearing and committee vote on Right to Work legislation.

Mr. Bosma knew by then he could let a panel pass a Right to Work measure (deeply flawed because it excluded construction industry employees from protection) without offending Mr. Daniels, because the House Democrat minority could kill it the next day simply by fleeing the capitol, as they did.

Right to Work advocates were left without a quorum, and even the half-measure the speaker had allowed to come up at the last minute expired without a recorded floor vote.

Had Right to Work legislation been brought up early in January, as National and Indiana Committee strategists repeatedly told Indiana legislators, Big Labor Democrats could not have prevailed without absconding for the entire legislative session. It’s unlikely they would have dared to do so.

Republican Politicians in Other States Act in Accord With What They Say

“I know the rationalizations Mitch Daniels has made for backstabbing Right to Work supporters are phony, but I don’t purport to know what really did motivate his and Brian Bosma’s betrayal of their freedom-loving constituents,” said Committee President Mix. “I just know Right to Work supporters have been sold out, temporarily.

“One consolation is there is fresh evidence this year that not all politicians act that way.

“Take what’s going on in the state of Maine, for example. After years of pain-staking mobilization, Right to Work supporters in the Pine Tree State are now close to securing sufficient legislative support to send a Right to Work measure to GOP Gov. Paul LePage’s desk.

“And, unlike Mitch Daniels, Paul LePage is actually trying to help move Right to Work legislation forward so he can sign it. In a February 26 radio address, Mr. LePage stated forthrightly: ‘If you do not believe union membership helps in your pursuit of happiness, you should . . . have the right to decline participation.’

“Pro-Right to Work Hoosiers deserve to have such a governor. And, if they don’t allow themselves to become discouraged and keep pressing hard to make Indiana a Right to Work state, one day in the not-too-distant future they will.”