Indiana Democrats are once again walking out of the state legislature, in order to tie up a “right-to-work” bill that would hinder labor unions.
The development came after a committee hearing Tuesday morning — lasting only six minutes — in which the majority Republicans voted to send the bill to the floor, and without hearing any debate or Democratic motions to amend the bill.
The Indianapolis Star reports:
The House tried and failed to come in to session at 1:30 p.m., with only 64 lawmakers on the floor. They need 67 to have a quorum to do business.
Rep. Ed DeLaney, an Indianapolis Democrat who was on the floor and not participating in the Democratic walk-out, called the GOP handling of this morning’s hearing on the bill a “visceral attack” on the democratic process.
“It makes it very hard” for Democrats to return to the House chamber to let business continue in light of it, he said.
Meanwhile, the Dems have rolled out a new online petition, called “Don’t Touch My Paycheck” — based on the premise that right-to-work legislation would result in lower wages throughout the state — to build up a political base against the bill, and to call for for continued public hearings.
From their defiant press release, with emphasis in the original:
The Democratic Caucus launched www.Dont-Touch-My-Paycheck.com, a online petition and rallying point for Hoosier families who believe Governor Daniels, Speaker Bosma and the Republican House Caucus should focus on creating good-paying jobs, not lowering paychecks of working families across Indiana. Caucus members will be live-commentating the State of the State of the State Address on the site.
Democratic Leader Bauer said, “Working families want good-paying jobs, not lower paychecks. Their response to the Governor is simple - Don’t Touch My Paycheck. Instead of playing partisan, political games, let’s work together to boost our small businesses, support our workers, and create jobs right here in Indiana.”
The Indiana state constitution requires a two-thirds majority on the floor in order to form a quorum. The Democrats, who are outnumbered 60-40, began employing the parliamentary tactic last Wednesday: By holding caucus meetings in the state Capitol, a form of official business — but without enough of them going to the floor at the same time to allow a quorum.
The Dems returned to the House on Monday — just as a law might have kicked in that sets stiff fines for frustrating a quorum — but did not make any guarantees that they would not throw a monkey-wrench into the debate again.
The “right-to-work” law would go beyond the current crackdowns on public-sector unions, by forbidding private-sector companies and unions from negotiating a contract that would require the collection of partial union dues from non-members.
Unions must, in fact, negotiate on behalf of all employees within the bargaining unit, not just their own members. Thus, right-to-work laws enable employees to free-ride on labor negotiations, with the effect of damaging union financing and overall organization to begin with.
Right-to-work laws are very common in the South and the West. There are 22 states that have such statutes. But as the New York Times has pointed out, this would make Indiana the first state to adopt the law in the traditional manufacturing belt, which stretches from the Midwest up through New England.
Last year, the state House Dems fled the state in order to block the two-thirds quorum on a variety of legislation, including the right-to-work bill. They returned to the state after securing a number of concessions, including an end to the right-to-work push by the Republican majority. (When the Dems fled, the same tactic was being used, though ultimately without success, by Wisconsin Democrats against an anti-public employee union measure.)
Afterwards, an “anti-bolting” law was passed, imposing a fine of $1,000 per day if legislators ever again fled in order to block a quorum for three days or more. The Dems were potentially leaving themselves open to those fines, with the three-day trigger occurring this past Friday — but their return to the legislature, even if only temporary, might have defused the situation.