Earlier this week, the Indiana House of Representatives passed the Right to Work (RTW) bill with a vote of 54-44. As one of the five Republicans that voted against the measure, I’d like to take this opportunity to explain my vote. I spent many months gathering information and listening to input from my constituents on this issue, and in the end I did what I believe is best for District 75.
Last year, during my first session as a state representative, Republicans in the House and Senate introduced the RTW bill. By fleeing to Illinois and staging an unprecedented five week walkout, House Democrats killed the legislation.
The bill was eventually tabled and assigned to a summer study committee where legislators met and held a series of public hearings on RTW over the summer and during the current legislative session. House and Senate members listened to over 25 hours of testimony by supporters and opponents of RTW.
In our district, I met extensively with the Chamber of Commerce, small business leaders, large manufacturers, union folks, and private citizens. The overwhelming majority of people I spoke with in District 75 opposed RTW, so I delved into the issue to understand the implications it would have on Indiana.
Proponents of the legislation argue that Hoosier workers should not be forced into signing a contract that requires union membership as a condition of employment. It is a federal law that an individual cannot be forced to join a union and also the Beck Act allows union workers to keep their dues from supporting a political party they oppose, however, that does not account for a union’s representation fees.
I strongly believe in a hands-off approach to private business. The decision of who a company can hire should not be made by the government, but by the business owner and the bargaining unit. Business owners are putting up their money and assuming all of the risk; they should be able to manage their business as they see fit.
I am a firm advocate of a leaner, more efficient government, and I believe that one of the most urgent problems in this country is the ballooning of government. We should be working for fewer laws, not more, especially when there are no guarantees a law will work. While many economic experts testified that between 25-50 percent of businesses will not consider a non-RTW state, without any assurances that these businesses would definitely settle here I cannot support making a decision that interferes with private business.
As your elected representative, my first responsibility is to this district. In southwest Indiana we have 7 percent unemployment compared to the rest of the state’s 9 percent. While we still have a lot of work to do, I was not convinced that RTW would be the best solution to bring jobs to our community. If I represented a district with a higher unemployment percentage, as is the case for some of my Republican colleagues, I may feel like the chance of bringing jobs to Indiana is worth it. I’ve explained my position on RTW to the members of my caucus and we mutually respect the positions we have taken for our districts.
I hope this makes it clear why I opposed making Indiana a RTW state. I’ve spoken with many of you and heard the same thoughts. Just as I have during the debate of whether or not to make Indiana a RTW state, I will continue to listen to the constituents of District 75 and work to make the best decisions for southwest Indiana and the state as a whole.