Watching Indiana

Take a quick quiz. What do you know about Indiana? It’s in the Midwest, with the northern border of Indiana touching the southern border of Michigan. The capitol is Indianapolis. Super Bowl XLVI will be played at the Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis on February 5, 2012 (this is an important date – keep track of it!).

It’s also the site of the first intrusion of the “Right to Work” legislation into the Midwest industrial belt.

On Wednesday, January 4, 2012, Republican Indiana State Representative Jerry Torr introduced “Right to Work” legislation into the House. According to Reuters, “the legislation is expected to pass the Republican-majority Indiana assembly with the support of Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, who said it is ‘all about new job opportunities.'” The bill is expected to be in the Senate and House labor committees on Friday.

However, Democrats and union supporters are expected to put up a fight and in fact, House Democrats refused to come out of their caucus today in a delay tactic. Rumors are flying that the Dems may escape to nearby Illinois again as they did last year when a “Right to Work” bill was introduced to avoid having to vote for it. Eventually that bill died, but Republicans are geared up this time to go to the mat for the legislation.

Competing ads between the Governor and the Indiana AFL-CIO are already on local TV stations. This morning, people were lined up to get a coveted spot in the halls. In an interesting twist, the Indiana State House has changed the visitor guidelines in what looks like an attempt to avoid protests such as the ones that were held in Wisconsin when “Right to Work” was introduced there. Less than 1,500 people will be allowed to visit at any given time and some meetings will be limited to actual rooms. Sign size has been limited. Visitors will only be allowed to enter and be screened at one of the entrances.

Matthew Tully, a columist with The Indianapolis Star, said this: “Since learning of the new policy, I’ve had this vision: On a cold winter morning sometime this month, four Indiana residents get in their respective cars and head for Indianapolis. A home-school advocate from Marion. A union worker from Evansville. A small-businesswoman from Madison. A tea-party activist from Valparaiso. As Hoosiers before them have for generations, all four want to go to the Statehouse to express their views — whether those views are conservative, liberal, moderate or nonpartisan.

But when they arrive at the steps of the state’s most majestic building, the doors are closed. Others who got up earlier or who had fewer miles to travel or who were part of a better organized group already have filled the People’s Building.

And with that, as one critic said last week, the Statehouse will be the People’s Building no longer.”

And finally, as if this scenario wasn’t bad enough, the Republicans have made it clear that this legislation must be passed by February 5, 2012. Why? You can’t have people exercising their First Amendment rights in front of the national sports media and all those Super Bowl fans! What’s a little stripping of people’s union rights when the nation’s biggest football game is on the line?

Indiana workers, we feel for you here in the Mitten State. Like you, we are determined to defend our union rights. But you’re in a terrible situation. Any state government that is restricting its own people from their House and putting a sporting event over the men and women who pay Indiana taxes should be villified in the press and held accountable by the courts.

MNA will continue to follow this developing story in Michigan Nurse Live and on our Facebook page. Need to boost your understanding of “Right to Work” legislation? We have fact sheets, statistics and more at http://www.minurses.org/legislation/resources/rtw.

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