Most Indiana Democratic House members stayed out of session for a second day yesterday to protest a right-to-work bill Republicans want to pass. Today becomes a point of reckoning, because after the third day of missed sessions, the majority Republicans, under a law passed last year when the Democrats went out of state to protest various bills, can impose fines of up to $1,000 a day. House Speaker Brian Bosma has virtually unilateral authority to make the decision to impose the fines, and it’s likely he will begin to impose them today.
Since Democrats are still in the state, I would have thought they would have just cycled through the members, with a small portion showing up every day (up to 6 can come to work on a given day while still denying Republican quorum) to limit the fines. But it doesn’t look like Democrats are taking that tactic, with most standing on principle and just staying out of the Statehouse. Three Democrats have refused to cooperate with the walkout and have showed up in the Statehouse chamber every day.
Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, said that if she can stand on principle against the labor bill and fines that could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars, other Democrats can, too.
“I’ll be the main one to say ‘I cannot stand the fine,’” she said Thursday as Democrats strategized in a private meeting at the Statehouse. “I’m a single mother, I have a son in college, I’m moving in with my mother, but I’m on the right side of history. So whatever happens is going to bless me.”
The Indiana House Democratic caucus opened a fundraising site on Act Blue and have so far received $1,405 in donations. I’m not sure about the legal means of them being able to use those donations to pay the fines; that may only be able to go toward campaign expenses. There’s actually a lawsuit working through the courts in Indiana on the Constitutionality of the fines.
Republicans scheduled a joint hearing of the relevant House and Senate committees today to work on the right-to-work bill, but without a quorum they cannot vote on it. The plan was to pass the bill quickly, within a few days, taking only a short-term PR hit. With Democrats employing a kind of filibuster, they draw out the conversation, raising public awareness of the bill, as well as public outcry.
Some of that outcry came this morning from the NFL Players Association, who delivered a statement on the legislation today. Why is the NFLPA getting involved? Because the Super Bowl happens to be in Indianapolis this year. Republican lawmakers cited the desire to get the right-to-work bill done before Super Bowl week as a motivating factor. That’s not likely to happen now, which means that awareness could just grow. Here’s part of the NFLPA statement:
NFL players know what it means to fight for workers’ rights, better pensions and health and safety in the workplace.
To win, we have to work together and look out for one another. Today, even as the city of Indianapolis is exemplifying that teamwork in preparing to host the Super Bowl, politicians are looking to destroy it trying to ram through so-called “right-to-work” legislation [...]
The facts are clear – according to a January 2012 Economic Policy Institute briefing report (“Working Hard to Make Indiana Look Bad”), “right-to-work” will lower wages for a worker in Indiana by $1,500 a year because it weakens the ability of working families to work together, and it will make it less likely that working people will get health care and pensions.
I love NFL players quoting the Economic Policy Institute.
Lisa Graves has an in-depth report for PR Watch about the Indiana situation, and the grassroots forces trying to repel the attack on worker’s rights, which has its seeds in the right-wing legislative group ALEC.