Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 11, 2011

Fight against a ‘right’

Unions plan protests for Day 1 at Statehouse

By Daniel Human
Tribune business writer

— Union leaders from Kokomo and the rest of Indiana plan to be outside the Statehouse Jan. 4 to greet legislators as they reconvene that day for the 2012 General Assembly.

Labor organizers in the city have been coordinating transportation to the capital so workers could speak out against right-to-work, said Rich Boruff, president of United Auto Workers Local 685.

Right-to-work, a type of law that has gone into effect in 22 states since the 1940s, would prohibit companies from entering labor contracts that require employees to pay unions dues.

Arguments in favor of the law say it helps draw in business investments and jobs, while arguments against right-to-work, which many opponents call “right-to-work for less,” say it tears apart unions and leads to lower wages.

Workers spent several weeks earlier this year picketing in front of the Indiana Statehouse after House Democrats walked out over the heavily Republican-supported issue.

“It wasn’t just a UAW thing, there were steel workers, AFSCME workers, workers from every walk of life,” Boruff said.

Republican legislators, including Sen. Jim Buck from Kokomo last week, have publicly spoken in favor of right-to-work in Indiana. The issue is set up to be one of the biggest debates during the 2012 General Assembly.

House Majority Leader Brian Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis, reiterated last week that he would like to pass a right-to-work law as part of a broader agenda to bring jobs to Indiana.

“After a summer study committee found that nearly half of all national employers specify ‘RTW states only’ when considering their expansion opportunities,” Bosma stated, “and after testimony from economic development experts that Indiana has lost substantial employment opportunities for the same reason, it’s time to move forward with a Hoosier Right to Work Act.”

An Indiana right-to-work law has also received public support from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Labor groups, including union umbrella organization AFL-CIO, have responded to the support to right-to-work

The AFL-CIO released a report last week that said 47 percent of Indiana residents oppose right-to-work while 38 percent favor it. According to the organization’s poll, 67 percent of state residents disagree with Statehouse Republican’s decision to make right-to-work their top priority.

“With so many hardworking families struggling, this poll clearly shows that Hoosiers’ patience for these divisive and partisan attacks has run out,” Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said in a press statement. “The numbers — among Democrats, Republicans and Independents — all show that Hoosiers are ready to move away from ‘right to work’ and onto more important issues like fixing the economy.”

Matt Collins, president of UAW Local 292 in Kokomo, said the union’s members will travel to Indianapolis more so intending to reach out the area’s legislators than to protest.

“I’m not trying to push views on everybody,” Collins said. “I just want people educated.”

• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570

or at daniel.human@