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Indiana sets stage for right-to-work

By Matt Pommer

Republican legislative leaders in Indiana announced late in November they will seek to pass a right-to-work law next year. They told reporters it would help create jobs in the Hoosier state.

The proposed legislation would ban private-sector labor contracts that require workers pay union dues. If successful, it would be the first time in a decade a state has adopted the concept.

The Indiana news came in a week during which the U.S. Labor Department released job figures for October. The federal report showed Wisconsin had lost 9,700 jobs in the month, the most in the nation. Wisconsin was one of only five states to lose jobs in October, according to the federal report.

Wisconsin saw gains in the leisure and hospitality sectors. Job losses occurred in manufacturing, trade, transportation, utilities, professional and business services, education, health services and government, according to the report.

The Republican move in Indiana and the job loss in Wisconsin seem to provide an opportunity for business leaders to push for right-to-work in this state.

In his days in the Assembly, Gov. Scott Walker co-sponsored a bill that would have created the right-to-work provision in Wisconsin law for private-sector labor contracts. Leaders of the state AFL-CIO knew about Walker’s backing of the bill during his successful run for governor in 2010.

Labor leaders contend that Walker’s success in curbing public employee unions seems to have encouraged private corporations to seek to end union shops. One bargaining idea would be to exempt new employees from being required to join the union.

Walker’s promise in the 2010 gubernatorial election was that he would create 250,000 additional jobs in the next four years. Certainly he could argue that curbing private sector unions would help him in the drive for added jobs.

Earlier this year, Walker vowed to encourage companies to leave Illinois, a state that raised its personal income tax rates and is facing fiscal pressures.†The federal report indicated Illinois added 30,000 jobs in October.

Walker is facing a potential recall election, although it is uncertain whether the petition circulators will be able to get the 540,000 signatures required for such an election. Lengthy legal challenges could delay any vote even if there are enough signatures by the mid-January deadline.

State law lets Walker raise unlimited money for such a political fight.

The governor also will have the political support of the pro-gun folks thanks to his approval of the carrying of concealed weapons in Wisconsin.

Failure to get enough signatures or a Walker recall win could certainly open the door to a push for an anti-union, right-to-work law in Wisconsin.

All in the name, of course, of creating jobs.

Matt Pommer worked as reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.

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