Indiana’s Governor Backs Right to Work Effort; Will Other Midwest States Follow?

For years, Indiana’s Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, has resisted efforts by fellow Republican lawmakers to implement Right to Work legislation. But now, Daniels is making a Right to Work law one of his legislative priorities for 2012.

Right to Work laws mean employees do not have to join a union, if it is formed in their workplace, nor do they have to pay union dues. (To see Right to Work states, click here.)

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels

Under “closed shop” laws in effect in Michigan, and other northern states, employees must either join a union when one is certified, or pay dues. Some people say that forces them to become union members against their will, since they must pay dues anyway.

Daniels, in a presentation Thursday laying out his goals for the new year, said Indiana needs the law because he believes it will lead to increased job opportunities. Daniels said the nation’s 22 Right to Work states enjoy faster job and income growth, and have lower unemployment rates.

“After a year of study and reflection, I have come to agree that it is time for Indiana to join the 22 states which have enacted right to work laws,” Daniels said in a statement Thursday.

But a poll by Ball State University shows state residents haven’t made up their minds. About half said they were undecided, 27 percent supported the idea and 24 percent opposed it, according to Bloomberg.

Indiana, which has aggressively sought economic development, has a record of leading other Midwest states on job-related issues. The state eliminated collective bargaining for state employees six years ago, well before the furor that surrounded similar moves in Ohio and Wisconsin.

Daniels’ call for a Right to Work law in Indiana could fuel tepid moves in other Midwest states. Organizers have begun the ground work in Michigan in hopes of winning approval there, although Right to Work has not been a priority for its Republican governor, Rick Snyder. Our Kate Davidson took a look at the Michigan effort in March.

Daniels, in his presentation, said workers’ right to organize would remain unchanged, but workers would have the ability to decide whether to pay union dues. Union organizers say it depletes their influence in the workplace if workers do not have to contribute.

Should Indiana and other Midwest states implement Right to Work laws? How have they worked in your state?

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