WASHINGTON, D.C.–Ten years ago Indiana Democrats fought so hard against a right to work bill that they walked out of the Indiana House and stayed in Illinois for nearly six weeks. One year later Republicans pushed that bill through. That entire fight might be negated by a bill that could put an end to right to work laws in all states that have them.
“This bill is a political giveaway to union bosses at the expense of American workers,” said Rep. Jim Baird (R-Ind.), after the House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or the PRO Act. “It would force workers into union contracts, bar workers’ right to vote by a secret ballot, and undermine Indiana’s own right-to-work laws.”
The PRO Act is being criticized by Republicans and many business leaders. It would make it easier for people to form and join unions. The National Labor Relations Board would have more power and union membership could be extended to independent contractors.
It would also make right to work laws invalid.
“Unions, of course, want everybody to be members. The opposite is they don’t have to join a union if they don’t want to. That’s basically right to work,” explained University of Indianapolis business professor and union historian Stephen Maple, for an upcoming radio special on the Democratic walkout from ten years ago.
Republicans have argued that having a right to work law in Indiana has helped bring jobs to the state. Rep. Frank Mrvan, a Democrat representing northwest Indiana, said on the U.S. House floor that the PRO Act will stop union suppression.
“Unions are the backbone of northwest Indiana’s economy,” he said. “We must do all we can to strengthen the ability for all workers to form unions. For far too long state and federal laws have targeted union workers and their ability to position theirselves [sic] and leverage.”
An argument from Republicans is that the bill would hurt the gig economy by preventing independent contarctors from working without having to pay union dues.
“Heaven forbid we pass something that’s gonna help the damn workers in the United States of America,” shouted Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), from the House floor Tuesday. “Now stop talking about Dr. Seuss and start working with us on behalf of the American workers.” He was talking to Republicans.
None of Indiana’s Republican representatives voted in favor of the bill. Both Democrats voted for it.
It is likely not going to have the 60 votes necessary to pass in the U.S. Senate.