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The WIBC News Special “Walkout: When the Democrats Left Indiana” premieres Thursday at 7 p.m.

STATE HOUSE–Ten years ago your state Democratic lawmakers in the Indiana House, staged a walkout. They left the state for nearly six weeks to protest a right to work bill, and lived for nearly six weeks at a motel in Urbana, Illinois.

“Walkouts in general are used by the labor force as a symbol of solidarity,” said state Rep. Maureen Bauer. She’s the daughter of former Democratic leader in the Indiana House Pat Bauer, who led the walkout. “It couldn’t have been a more symbolic gesture on this topic of right to work or right to work for less.”

Bauer (the father) knew that Democrats no longer had the majority in the state legislature, and that Republicans were planning on passing a right to work bill, which would limit the power of unions in the state, and which would mean people no longer had to join unions to work in certain trades.

“When I came to the conclusion after several years that this was an important step to take, I tried to be really transparent about that,” said former governor Mitch Daniels, now the president of Purdue University.

Daniels had not traditionally supported a right to work law in Indiana, until he realized that even though the state was competing well for new jobs, there were some companies that never considered locating here because of a lack of a right to work law.

“I always though the important thing was the jobs it would bring to Indiana,” said state Rep. Jerry Torr, who co-wrote the 2011 Right to Work Bill.

Torr said he believes he was right about the jobs.

“But, what resonated more with the average voter was the freedom of the individual worker to decide whether or not they wanted to be associated with the union,” he said.

Democrats, led by Bauer, believed right to work would drive down wages. They also objected to two education bills: one that expanded charter schools and the other than started a voucher program for students to attend any school they wanted, with state money.

On Feb. 22, 2011, when it became apparent that that year’s Right to Work Bill would advance, the Democrats left Indiana to keep the legislature from being able to legally take up any votes.

When asked if the walkout may have been a power play between Daniels and Bauer, Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, says maybe.

“We’re talking about two very strong individuals who were not known for backing down,” he said. “And, as far as Pat Bauer is concerned, this was the one, big hammer he had.”

The walkout would last nearly six weeks.

NOTE: Legislators in Indiana are paid for their work at the beginning of the session. They are then paid per diem through the session. Some of the per diem pay was returned. Legislators who did not show up were also fined about $1,250.