[r79] In Lehman's Terms: Back to work, Right-to-work (1/11/2012)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Start Date: 1/11/2012
End Date: 1/11/2012

Adams County

Allen County

Wells County

Back to work, Right-to-Work

Hello again from the hallowed halls of the Indiana Statehouse.  Last Wednesday, we “started” the short session of the Indiana General Assembly.  The only problem is that we never got started.  As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”  With the Right-to-Work issue as one of the top priorities this session, the Democrats chose to stay away from the chamber denying a quorum and delaying the people’s business until their return.  If you recall last year’s session, it was this same issue that sent them to the Comfort Inn Suites in Urbana, IL for five weeks.

The Right-to-Work issue carries a lot of passion on both sides.  In case the hearings last February or the 25 hours of public testimony or the 11 months of editorials and town halls is not enough to educate those who want to know what the bill does, I will try to explain it in layman’s terms.

The bill simply says that you cannot be forced to join a union or pay fees as a condition of employment.  While this sounds very simple and most people would agree that in this nation we are free to associate with whoever we want and that we are free to join any organization on our own free will, the unions concerns need to be pointed out.

The law says that if a bargaining group works out an agreement for the laborers, those benefits must apply to all employees whether they belong to the union or not.  The unions define this as free-loading.  They want to be able to continue the practice of forcing all employees that would receive this new benefit to join the union.  They say that this bill will kill unions and weaken their effectiveness with management.

Last week, I listened to over five hours of testimony on this issue; while I have not firmly cast my lot on one side or the other, I am inclined to support the bill. I don’t think the unions have made a compelling argument that this bill will kill unions.  In fact, in 1995 the legislature passed Senate Bill 5, a Right-to-Work law for teachers unions, and they still exist and are as strong as ever. There was testimony showing how other states with Right-to-Work laws have lost jobs, lowered incomes and killed unions.  Then the next person would show how states with right to work laws had lower unemployment, increases in personal income and union membership had risen.  If you throw out the “stats” from both sides, I feel it comes down to a simple issue: worker freedoms.

I belong to an association that works hard for independent insurance agents on legislative and other issues as well as providing other benefits to being a member.  I am more than happy to pay my dues because I receive what I perceive to be a great benefit.  Just last night I asked a young man if he belonged to the union where he works. He told me no, so I asked him why.  His response was that it is too expensive and the only benefit he could see was to have representation in a grievance. 

I asked several of the union members who were at the Statehouse last week to give me the reasons to join the union if I was a 25 year old new employee.  Representation and pension were the most common answers.  If I am not a member, can I have access to apprenticeships? Can I have a say in who the union leaders are?  Can I get union work elsewhere when a skilled position is needed?  The answer is NO, and that is the way it should be.  If you want those benefits, join the union.  If you can show me the reasons to join a union and I perceive the value of my dues to be beneficial, then the Right-to-Work issue is a moot point.

As we near the time to vote, I will continue to listen to both sides of this issue, and I will keep you up to speed on where we end up.

In addition to Right-to-Work, I want to comment briefly on a couple of my bills that you may want to follow once the Democrats come back to work this session.  House Bill 1013 is my golf cart bill, and House Bill 1225 is a bill that concerns septic systems.  For more information on these issues and any other legislative issues, please visit our website at www.in.gov/legislative.  The website is the best means to stay up-to-date on all legislative proceedings at the Statehouse.  As always, you can watch us in action by clicking on the blue “watch live” button on the upper right side of the page.

Please contact me with any questions at h79@in.gov or by calling 1-800-382-9841.

Keeping things in Lehman’s terms,

Rep. Matt Lehman
District 79