So now that everyone is through with Clown Show 2: We Drop Our r’s Edition, maybe we can get to a story that actually matters.* And I don’t mean Clown Show 3: Confederate Homeland Edition. Instead, maybe we should shift our attention to the Hoosier State, where Governor Mitch Daniels** and the Republican legislature is trying to eviscerate Indiana’s unions by passing a right to work for poverty wages law.
To be precise, what a “right to work” law does is makes it legal for individuals in unionized workplaces to choose to opt out of the union, not paying any dues. But the union is still legally required to provide these non-members full representation. It’s a leech law, allowing workers to suck the blood of union members. It also weakens unions by forcing them to provide services without the resources of union dues.
The minority Democrats are doing everything they can to stop this atrocious law from passing. Both sides are using the example of Oklahoma, the last state to pass a right to work law, in 2001. Oklahoma business has talked up how much the law has helped them, but the Oklahoma economy has not exactly boomed. What it has done is undermine unions, which is pretty much all the plutocrats care about here. What about workers? Didn’t making Oklahoma “business-friendly” bring in the jobs?
“There is no doubt that the law has resulted in job loss and lower wages,” said Jesse Isbell, who worked for 36 years at the Bridgestone-Firestone tire plant in Oklahoma City.
That plant closed in 2006, and he and 1,400 others lost their jobs, he said, even though proponents had said the legislation was what was needed to keep jobs from leaving the state.
“Those jobs went to Mexico and they’re not coming back.”
He blamed that in part on the “right to work” law, saying it led to hard feelings and bad morale.
“The instance of free-loaders using union resources to fight discharge and company discipline created a hostile work environment,” Isbell said. “It affected productivity, profitability and the quality of the operations at our plant.”
He and Kitti Asberry, another United Auto Workers member who lost her General Motors job when the Oklahoma plant closed there in 2005, said jobs coming in have not replaced those lost, and that the wages and benefits are lower.
Will Democrats succeed in beating back this law? I tend to doubt it, though there is significant pressure on some Republicans in this reasonably strong union state to vote against it. Moreover, the lack of national pressure suggests the long-time Republican strategy of waiting out short-term Democratic protests, as in Wisconsin, will work in Indiana. By this I mean that liberals protest every now and again but don’t have the day-to-day organizing structure to fight these fires wherever they flare up. Let liberals focus on Wisconsin and conservatives will shift to Indiana and New Hampshire, leaving Wisconsin for a later date.
For whatever reason, even Democracy Now is coming up short on this issue. Instead of being a strong advocate for Indiana labor, it hosted a debate on the issue, allowing a Republican representative to give the 1% side of the story. Can you imagine a union newspaper of the 1930s giving a capitalist equal play? A civil rights newspaper of the 60s allowing a racist equal time? I mean, I know it’s hard for capitalists to get their message out in 2011 and all…..
Indiana should be the next Wisconsin, yet it has received almost no attention. I know our political expectations are lower in Indiana than Wisconsin, but this is war on the working-class that needs to be fought on every front. Instead, we have another 2 million tweets about whatever Rick Santorum said in some meaningless primary debate.
* I’m not entirely saying the Republican Primary doesn’t matter, though on the issues I care about, the differences between the various candidates are almost nil. It’s that the Republican Primary is over so maybe we should talk about something that actually affects people.
** If Daniels had actually run, what would his chances be of winning the nomination at this point? 20%. Fail.