Defense Makes Big Save in Indiana

Indiana unionists beat back right-to-work legislation last month after Democratic representatives left the state for five weeks to block that bill and a truckload of other anti-union legislation.

Daily demonstrations inside the Capitol, which brought 10,000 to Indianapolis at their peak, marked the Democrats’ absence. Now the rallies have subsided, and unions are directing members to more standard forms of mobilization. Activists phonebank legislators while a core of unionists buttonholes them every day at the Statehouse.

The labor movement scored another defensive victory in March when the state senate shelved plans to eliminate Project Labor Agreements on public construction projects. PLAs guarantee labor standards and wages at construction sites.



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Another attack on the building trades is moving forward, however. That legislation would cancel prevailing wage protections for construction workers on projects costing less than $350,000.

The provision would strip wage protections from “most of our bread and butter work,” said Dave Williams of the Laborers. He said the point of prevailing wages is to take wages out of competition in the bidding process. Without it, he said, wages could drop to $9.

Steelworkers legislative director Brett Voorhies said his union, along with others, is “fighting tooth and nail” against a bill to restrict teacher collective bargaining to wages and benefits only, and to strip due process in discipline and firing. It has already passed the Senate and is before the House.

Other bills have been scaled back due to protests. A bill to privatize schools deemed “failing” was withdrawn and a school voucher program was narrowed.

Considering the overwhelming Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature, “we’ve done pretty good on being able to block and fight legislation,” Voorhies said.

A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #386, May 2011. Don't miss an issue, subscribe today.