As the Indiana legislature enters its final session for 2011, Republicans vowed to make their “right-to-work” bill the main focus of the session. This topic is very controversial and caused Democrats to leave the state for five weeks earlier this year to avoid voting on the issue. Both parties have differing views on whether or not it would be beneficial to Indiana employees to have their state become the twenty-third “right-to-work” state.
“Right-to-work” laws are passed on a state-per-state basis and allow individuals to be employed by a company that has union workers without joining the union. Members can opt out of paying membership dues but still reap the benefits of being part of a union. This option was given to each state in the U.S. by a portion of the Taft-Hartley Act that essentially gives the states the power to decide whether employers can require employees to financially support the union. Non “right-to-work” states, such as Kentucky and Indiana can have so-called “union shops,” or companies that require their employees to be union members and pay dues. Recently hired employees that are not union members have a set period of time to become members; otherwise, they may forfeit their employment.
Supporters of the legislation believe potential Indiana jobs are being lost because employers prefer basing their businesses in “right-to-work” states that give employees the choice of joining unions. Gov. Mitch Daniels stated “We miss about a third of the opportunities because businesses want a state where this protection is provided to workers. In this tough economy, the state needs every edge it can get.” Some employees object to paying dues to a union that may support political agendas that conflict with their own personal political beliefs. Others may not wish to join a union for personal reasons. In non “right-to-work” states, potential employees are denied this choice if they consider jobs at companies that require union membership and union financial support.
Opponents of “right-to-work” laws often call them “right-to-work-for-less” laws because they feel a union is weakened when all employees are not required to participate or contribute. Employees that do not pay dues are still allowed to use union services, including legal representation, which many feel takes away money that should be used to represent dues-paying union members seeking higher wages and improved workplace safety.
While this issue is starting to be discussed again now, it will not be resolved any time soon. Supporters of the bill hope to pass as much of it as possible before February 5, 2012. While the date may mean nothing to some, the majority of Indiana residents know it as the day the Superbowl will be played in Indianapolis, and legislators do not want union protests interfering with the game. Chances are good that the “right-to-work” debate will still be going strong at election time in November next year.
Indiana employment lawyers we are following this debate closely. If you would like more information on this topic or you have another employment matter you wish to discuss, please contact Charles W. Miller & Associates.
Indiana panel recommends right-to-work legislation; Associated Press; October 26, 2011
Indiana Republicans aim to get right to work on ‘right to work’; indystar.com; Mary Beth Schneider; November 22, 2011