For the second time in a week, a group of legislative Democrats from a Midwestern state has bolted to protest an anti-union bill. We know about Wisconsin, but now Indiana Democrats have walked out:
House Democratic lawmakers in Indiana have begun a de facto walkout in an effort to block a Republican-backed bill that would restrict private-sector union rights.
Republicans arrived at the statehouse Tuesday morning to find no Democrats present, as protesters applauding the walkout could be heard inside the chamber.
The strategy is possible because Republicans make up 60 of 100 House seats. Without any Democrats present, Republicans lack a two-thirds majority needed for a quorum to act on the bill.
There are differences between the proposed Wisconsin and Indiana measures: the Indiana ones are actually quite worse. Governor Mitch Daniels de-certified the state’s public employee unions on his first day in office back in 2007. It got little response at the time. This new bill would essentially make Indiana into an anti-union “right to work” state. It would prohibit employers from requiring an employee to join a union or to collect union dues to work at their establishment. It would also give private-sector union members the right to drop out of their unions and stop paying dues. Basically it would turn the work environment in Indiana like much of the deep South. And it can be seen as the second of a two-step which Wisconsin is just embarking upon: first, bust the public unions, then bust the private ones. Overall this reduces leverage for the working man and woman. Studies have shown that workers in right to work states make $5,500 less for the same job than workers in states without those restrictions.
Central Indiana Jobs with Justice, part of the coalition which rallied at the capital in Indianapolis today, described the bill as “an attack on the middle class,” and the head of the state AFL-CIO said it would be a “political payoff to wealthy campaign donors.” About 2,500 private union workers rallied in the capital yesterday.
The House Democrats in Indiana have now fled the state to deny quorum on the anti-union bill, heading to either Illinois or Kentucky. This is not the first time House Democrats have walked out; in 1995, they blocked a mid-decade redistricting scheme by House Republicans. Gov. Daniels has said that he didn’t want to necessarily take up this fight, but the Republicans in the Legislature passed the bill out of committee yesterday, so they’re forcing his hand.
Wisconsin now has some company.
UPDATE: More background here. Two House Democrats came in today to make the motion that the House couldn’t operate without a quorum.
And here’s all the bills that Democrats are fighting in Indiana. You can see that House bill 1468 is the main one, but that others would ban state employee collective bargaining (right now the unions are de-certified, this would make it permanent), prohibits project labor agreements and ban local minimum wage ordinances.
UPDATE II: National progressive organizations are planning solidarity rallies on Saturday. MoveOn, Van Jones, PCCC, CREDO, Democracy for America, NPA, Center for Community Change, Courage Campaign, and Progressive Majority have already joined the coalition, called the “50-State Mobilization to Save the American Dream.” From the release:
We call for emergency rallies in front of every state house this Saturday at 12 Noon to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. We demand an end to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country. We demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And we demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.
After decades of stagnant wages and a crushing recession, this latest assault on the American way of life is one the middle class cannot endure.
We are all Wisconsin.
We are all Americans.
This Saturday, we will stand together to save the American Dream.