In early 2011 as the Ohio legislature was considering a measure that would have stripped collective bargaining rights for public employees, thousands of outraged citizens protested at the statehouse in Columbus, voicing their objection to this unprecedented attack on Ohio's middle class. Through a number of unscrupulous legislative maneuvers and attempts to silent dissenting voices by locking the statehouse doors, proponents of the bill were able to pass it by a single vote margin, which ignited a firestorm of opposition and a united front against the attack on workers' rights. Ultimately, the bill was put up for referendum in the fall of 2011 and Ohio voters from all walks of life and every region of the state soundly rejected the bill by more than a 20 point margin.
While the first part of this story might sound all too familiar to Hoosiers given the present circumstances surrounding the Indiana legislature's consideration of another attack on collective bargaining (aka the inaccurately titled "right to work" bill), all Indiana legislators should take heed. Ohioans, and I presume Hoosiers, are looking for is bipartisan cooperation and focus from politicians on creating jobs and getting the economy moving. Unfortunately, the Ohio and now the Indiana anti-worker legislation represent the same old politics of division that will further erode our middle class and accelerate the "race to the bottom" where all workers lose.
Indiana workers are both wise and just to fervently voice their opposition to these attacks and politicians in the Indiana Statehouse would be wise to listen to their concerns. The preponderance of evidence gathered from extensive independent research shows that the so called "right to work for less" policies are in fact damaging to local economies as they lower wages and often create an environment that is conducive to job flight instead of fulfilling the promises of their proponents. An examination of states that have passed these laws points this out very clearly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker in a right to work state makes about $5,333 a year less than workers in other states ($35,500 compared with $30,167). Weekly wages are $72 greater in free-bargaining states than in right to work states ($621 versus $549). Working families in states without right to work laws have higher wages and benefit from healthier tax bases that improve their quality of life and, looking at the past four quarters, seven of the ten states with the highest unemployment rates are states with "right to work" laws.
If proponents continue to pursue this misguided measure, Indiana voters will likely see the effort for what it is-- a purely political attack that is dividing Hoosiers and preventing any real progress on economic recovery. Don't take my word for it though. Just ask Governor Kasich who in the aftermath of a resounding defeat of the issue openly acknowledged that taking away collective bargaining rights was the wrong move and that "when people speak like this in a campaign referendum, you have to listen if you're a public servant". As a result of the middle class backlash, Kasich's approval ratings dropped to the lowest in the country. It would be wise for Indiana's politicians to take warning from the Ohio experience and they should follow more closely their promises to improve the economy and support policies that will create good jobs instead of pursuing attacks on workers with a policy that will not create one single job.
Ohioaflcio.blogspot.com, Tues Jan 17 2012