Right to work took its first step towards passage Friday as a committee passed it to the Senate floor in a 6 to 4 vote. Senator Brent Waltz was the only Republican to vote against the measure.
The joint House and Senate committee met for more than five hours, hearing testimony on either side of the controversial issue. Right-to-work legislation bans union contracts that require non-union employees pay fees for representation. Middlebury Republican Senator Carlin Yoder, the bill’s sponsor, says the issue boils down to whether right to work is good for Indiana.
“And I’m here to propose that for those nine percent of Hoosiers who are not working today as we sit here, this is absolutely the right thing for the state of Indiana,” he says.
The committee Friday heard essentially the same testimony the legislature has heard for the last year. LaPorte Democratic Senator Jim Arnold says he does not think the hearing changed anyone’s mind.
“Nothing has been encouraging me that the case for right to work has been proven,” he says.
The panel also took testimony all morning on the bill to prohibit unions from forcing nonmembers to pay at least a portion of union dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining. Supporters brought in the president of the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce to boast about his state‘s economic gains since the state became the 22nd and last to enact right to work in 2001.
University of Oregon Economist Gordon Lafer counters that one-third fewer companies have moved into Oklahoma since the law was passed. He says more positive statistics, from job creation to increases in per-capita income, ignore dozens of other contributors, from Oklahoma‘s warmer climate to soaring oil and gas prices.
The House committee that took part in the hearing could not vote because it did not officially have a bill to consider. House Democrats remaining off the floor the first two days of session prevented the bill from being handed down to the committee.
Network Indiana contributed to this report.