Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Will no one come forward to defend RTW?

   The latest word is Democratic members of Indiana’s General Assembly want to issue of Right to Work ("RTW") placed on the ballot as a referendum on the November ballot. House Speaker Brian Bosma has said the idea is reasonable and he will listen to debate on the matter. Former Speaker, Rep. Patrick Bauer of South Bend makes a good point when he says since RTW was not debated in the last election, the matter should be placed before the people of Indiana.

   That is an excellent point. It highlights a couple of problems with the pending RTW bills.

   The last State to pass RTW was Oklahoma (2001). It is not like there has been a cauldron of debate on this type of legislation. To the best of my knowledge it was not an issue raised by candidates for the General Assembly during the 2010 election campaign that brought us our current reps and senators. Instead, a Republican Governor saw majorities in both houses and decided he would push RTW. Voters were not confronted with the issue when they elected their representatives who, at present, consider RTW. A referendum, or at least an election during which candidates openly debate the matter, would seem a fairer way to address the matter. Unless one supports the notion of the matter being decided in the "quiet rooms" (and those usually are in the Columbia Club), then we should allow full expression of ideas.

   A study released by Ball State this week indicates the effects of RTW on jobs in manufacturing would be minimal. Some RTW states experienced economic downturns after passage and enactment of the legislation. Other states experienced growth. The parameters of the study were limited to jobs in manufacturing. "The study does not evaluate all industries or aspects of the workplace," according to economics Professor Michael Hicks, director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research. The study focuses on four variables during the period 1929 to 2005: share of manufacturing in each state economy, overall size of manufacturing in each state as measured by total incomes, manufacturing employment, and manufacturing wages.

   I was told about the study last evening by Paul Ogden. I have not read the entire study. It just came out this week.

   So I have several questions:

   1) Why this sudden haste to push RTW? The economy was in bad shape during the last general elections (2010). If Governor Daniels sees RTW as a panacea, presumably he was aware of such laws two years ago. He could have announced his strong feelings for the approach and asked Republican candidates for the General Assembly to make RTW an issue as a means of economic recovery in the State. Instead, there only was silence.

   2) What companies will relocated to Indiana if the Hoosier State adopts RTW? This is not a game of poker. This is a matter of the future of our State. We should know of at least one or two companies that will re-located here upon adoption of RTW.

   3) What evidence supports the notion that RTW leads to economic growth? Well, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce commissioned one such study, but its methodology has been attacked. The study arbitrarily chose differences between two years—1977 and 2008. As a report from the Higgins Labor Studies Program of the University of Notre Dame points out: "Using this approach groups Oklahoma with the current RTW states, even though Oklahoma was not a RTW state before 2001." Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute argue their study, released February 12, 2011, is more comprehensive and of more statistical validity than that of the Chamber of Commerce. Notre Dame’s Higgins Labor Studies Program report agrees with that assessment. Gould and Shierholz conclude RTW results in a drop in wages of 3.2%, in rate of employer-sponsored health insurance of 2.6%, and in employer-sponsored pensions of 4.8%. This is consistent with the primary reason given for passage of RTW.

   So why the rush to push this legislation through the General Assembly and up the anal orifices of the people of Indiana? Let’s put it on the referendum.

   One final note: We have tried all week to obtain someone to argue in favor of RTW. Our efforts—as of 6:31 a.m. Saturday, January 14—have been for nought. We have contacted (Paul and I) have contacted the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, individual members of the Republican Party caucus, and even the offices of the resident agent of the not-for-profit that is pushing the bills. No one has accepted our invitation.

   Bill Groth, an Indianapolis lawyer who has defended the rights of workers for years (see the website for his bio) agreed earlier this week to be on the panel. He is opposed to RTW.

   Perceval, riding only a donkey and with neither shield nor lance, volunteered himself to defend Guinevere’s honor. (At least he did in the 1981 movie Excalibur.) Is there no one willing to defend RTW? Okay, Guinevere had no honor to defend. Maybe that’s the point.

   For the final time, I remind the reader that today’s Show will discuss the RTW legislation before the General Assembly. We also will discuss the effect of the end of collective bargaining rights for Indiana public employees since Governor Daniels with the stroke of a pen ended collective bargaining for Indiana public employees on his first day in office in 2005. How could he do that when Governor Scott Walker had to go through the Wisconsin legislature to try to do the same? Governor Evan Bayh enabled the Governor of Indiana to do just that.

   The Show is at Big Hat Books, 6510 Cornell in Broad Ripple, directly across from the Monon Trail and just north of 65th Street. We start at 11 a.m. Come and be a part of the audience.

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