The Rush Towards Right-to-Work

Just a few short years ago, we were told by Governor Mitch Daniels and his party that Indiana was “an island of prosperity” in the Midwest. Compared to other Rust-Belt states, Indiana was doing extraordinarily well. We were told that Indiana was one of the best states in the Union for businesses. So what has changed?

We now have flocks of Calamity Howlers flooding our airwaves, opinion pages, and phone lines screaming about the need for a “Right-to-Work” law. Businesses are dying and fleeing the state in droves, they say. We are now being told that Indiana has no future without this “Right-to-Work” legislation to undermine collective bargaining rights and lower wages across the board.

So which is it? Are we an island of economic prosperity or a wasteland of economic hell? I don’t think the people forming the political message for Mitch Daniels and the Indiana Republican Party thought this one through. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that it’s simply poor messaging and not something more repulsive, like expecting Hoosiers to be so stupid and absentminded that we’d forget Mitch’s re-election message.

I, along with many other people, simply don’t see the reasoning behind the rush to pass "Right-to-Work". Why be in such a hurry to flood Indiana with low-paying jobs that offer no benefits? Of course, the people who are the most excited about the flood of minimum wage jobs are the least likely to have to work one of those jobs. Mitch Daniels, his wife, and their children are in no danger of working a job where they might need the larger worker voice that organized labor provides. Republican legislators are in no danger of losing their pay, benefits, or workplace safety. So why would they care about those who are?

Middle class and lower class families are going to bear the burden of this law. That’s nothing new of course. Hoosier workers never really realized the “island of prosperity” in Indiana. Much like the rest of the American working class, the last 10 years weren’t kind to working Hoosiers. Record corporate profits failed to provide broad-based economic benefits, even though we were promised they would. Trickle-down economics failed to trickle. The prosperity and money pooled at the very top like it always does. The Mitt Romneys of the world touched the stars by standing on the backs of the working class, and then expected us to be happy about it.

The failure of their economic program didn’t deter the Trickle-Downers though. They came back in 2010 with more of the same. Once again we’re being told that increasing corporate profits by lowering wages, eliminating benefits, and reducing workplace safety will create jobs and help the workers.  Many people didn’t buy it before. I’m guessing far fewer people are willing to buy it this time.