LETTER: Will Right to Work benefit District 74?

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One of my interim study committee assignments is serving on the Committee on Employment Issues. This group is studying two key issues: Right to Work and Project Labor Agreements. We have conducted three full days of hearing from all perspectives: union leaders and members, business leaders, economic developers and site selectors.

Right-to-work legislation means that an employee cannot be required to join a union or to pay union dues in order to hold a job. It does not decertify nor has it been found to cause decertification of unions.

Twenty-two states already have this law. Five of those are Midwest states including Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota. These states have increased their employee compensation by 11 percent over the past decade as Hoosier employees have lost 4 percent. Equally important, these Right-to-work states have maintained their workforce during a tough economy while Indiana’s workforce has shrunk by 9 percent. And, finally, Midwest right-to-work states have gained 8 percent of young adults age 25-34, while our rural southern Indiana counties have experienced double digit losses.

Hoosiers are willing to work hard and apply their skills to jobs that will support their families and a good quality of life. Economic developers and site selectors – those people hired by large companies to find a location for a new facility – contend that Indiana loses 25 to 50 percent of its new industry prospects – new jobs – because we are not a right-to-work state. Companies see this designation as a measure of “ease of doing business” in Indiana, particularly in manufacturing.

Right to Work is often the first filter used in deciding which states will be considered. These same site selectors and economic developers shared that Indiana has almost everything else right: low taxes, good workforce and good location. In fact, Indiana is well-poised, according to these experts, to attract new jobs in automotive, aerospace, medical-devices and pharmaceutical industries.

These are good-paying jobs from the plant floor to the engineering and professional positions created.

The fear of union leaders is three-fold. First, there will be a loss of union members as some will choose not to join the union, which results in loss of union dues. Second, federal law requires that unions represent all employees at their workplaces, not just those who choose to be members. Finally, there is a concern that, if right-to-work is passed, there will be downward pressure on wages or that we will attract low-paying jobs.

As you can see, this has not been the reality in the Midwest when you compare Right to Work states against Indiana.

I have lived and worked in two right-to-work and two compulsory union states. I worked for both union and nonunion represented facilities in these right-to-work states. I saw firsthand the economic development resulting in more jobs for everyone and standard of living increases in these right-to-work states.

This legislation remains under study with recommendations due by end of the year. I believe that, given the serious economic issues our country faces and the severe brain drain in southern Indiana, right to work must be seriously considered to ensure jobs for those here today as well as for our children. And, we must work diligently to allay concerns and ensure there will be no negative effect on Hoosier workers.

State Representative, District 74

(More letters appear in our print edition.)