After weeks of tantrums and hissy fits by Democrats, the Republican-controlled Indiana House last night passed, 54-44, a right-to-work bill that will make it illegal for unions to collect mandatory dues from non-members, a big blow to the ability of unions to collect funds and sway elections. Governor Mitch Daniels, who wasn't an enthusiast of the bill going in, has nevertheless pledged to sign it after the Senate, which is also in Republican hands, passes it next week.
Indiana will become the 23rd state in the country—and the first in the Rust Belt—to embrace such a law, something that has huge implications for the future of unions in the Midwest. Wisconsin and Ohio have already scrapped the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions, and Indiana's move has made a frontal assault on the power of private sector unions in the region, which is why unions and their Democratic allies are livid.
They tried to do everything in their power to stall the Indiana bill—including refusing to show up for legislative debate without which a vote could not be held. But when that tactic fizzled, they made one final stand last night, taking to the floor of the House to condemn the bill.
Democratic Rep. Linda Lawson accused Republicans of trying to destroy her union-heavy community, demanding to know what Republicans from agricultural districts would do if she came into their communities and said "'no more cows' and 'no more pigs'?"
No word yet on how the UAW feels about having its members compared to "cow" and "pigs."
Be that as it may, the fact of the matter is that if the record of other right-to-work states is any evidence, this bill, which Gov. Daniels is expected to sign by Feb. 5, will give Indiana's economy a real competitive edge over other Midwestern states, forcing them to consider similar bills. For example, as I noted some months ago, there is a credible effort afoot to make Michigan a right-to-work state, something unthinkable even five years ago given the near-complete chokehold of unions on this state for over half a century.
Democrats and unions complain that the bill will destroy working-class jobs and wages. But the truth is that, between 2000 and 2010, employment in right-to-work-states increased 2.3 percent and dropped 4 percent in non-right-to-work states. Likewise, personal income grew 57.5 percent in right-to-work-states compared to 40.5 percent in non-right-to-work states.