A Stones Throw 2-2-12


It’s party time in Indianapolis.

And I don’t mean Super Bowl party time. I might change my mind if the New England Patriots lose and Peyton Manning remains a Colt. Until then, there are two other parties I am concerned about.

The Republican Party and the Democrat Party.

While the City of Indianapolis shows the world how to host a Super Bowl, Indiana Republicans and Democrats show they can be as obstructionist as their counterparts in Washington, DC. It appears neither party has figured out the concept of cooperation and compromise. Of what it means to “serve the people” – or to “work for the greater good.”

Instead, in Indiana, when the Democrats see the Republican dominated legislature moving toward voting for a bill they (Democrats) don’t like, they don’t stand up and fight.

Instead, they stand up and yell “Road Trip.”

Off to Illinois they go – abandoning their jobs – their responsibilities – and their constituents.

It is like a five-year old taking his ball home because the big boys won’t let him win. And, like the big boys and the five-year-old, the big boys just find another ball and play without the five-year-old.

If it wasn’t so sad it would be laughable.

By the way, if you think I am simply Democrat bashing – I am – because I am writing about the Indiana Legislature. If I was writing about Congress you would probably think I was Republican bashing since the Republican’s in Congress, while staying in the game, spend most of the time obstructing progress at the expense of all of us.

There is a time to fight the good fight and a time to work toward a compromise. There is a time to “pick your fight;” not fight everything the other party supports.

Republicans in Congress haven’t figured that out yet. At least they stay to fight their fight.

In Indiana, Democrats take a “Road Trip.”

One of the most divisive bills introduced in this year’s legislative session is the so-called “Right to Work Law.” Under this law, (House Bill 1001) companies and unions could no longer negotiate a contract that requires non-members of the union to pay fees (dues) for representation.

In other words, workers in Indiana would have the right to choose whether to join and pay dues to a union. This concept is so repulsive to Democrats that they took one of their “Road Trips” and boycotted legislative sessions day after day.

When they finally returned to the legislative floor, the Republican’s pushed the bill through with a vote of 54 to 44. The Democrats were outraged. They accused Republicans of fast-tracking the bill; of not being willing to consider Democrat amendments.

Whether these amendments were developed while sitting in a hot-tub in Danville, Illinois, or in the chambers of the legislature is not known. What is known is that the Republicans weren’t going to let a quorum go to waste, so instead of accepting amendments, they forced a vote.

Now the Indiana Senate will vote for the “Right to Work Bill” without Democrat participation. With the overwhelming Republican majority (37-13) in the Indiana Senate, the bill will pass with or without Democrats being present.

After that, Governor Mitch Daniels says he will sign the bill and Indiana will become the 23rd “Right to Work” state.

Will this be a good thing – or a bad thing – for Indiana?

Today, I don’t know. As far as the future number of available jobs for Indiana workers, I don’t know if it will make any difference either way.

I do know I once worked in Anderson, Indiana, alongside over 17,500 General Motors employees. I do know there are zero – that’s right zero – GM employees in Anderson today. The same is almost true of Kokomo, Indiana, and cities throughout the country.

Many people want to blame the demise of GM in Indiana on the unions. Many others want to blame management. Having lived through the good and the bad, I can say without hesitation the blame can be shared equally.

Would things be different if Indiana had been a “Right to Work” state?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Reports indicate many of the new industries and current industry expansions during the 1970’s and 1980’s went to “Right to Work” states.

Not to states like Indiana.

However, in today’s economy I don’t know that “Right to Work” states are faring any better than non-“Right to Work” states. I do know that Indiana can’t claim our economy is any better than the economy of “Right to Work” states.

That is not my point.

I find it interesting that Legislators would use their “Right to Work” to try to block my “Right to Work.” Or maybe they figure their support of “Right to Work” gives them the “Right not to Work.”

I don’t think passage of the law will have much of an immediate effect on jobs – it could have an immediate effect on the amount of dues that unions can collect.

That might cost votes. And political contributions.

Legislators need votes. And money. (Guess who unions and union members contribute the most money and votes to.)

I hope this isn’t the only motivation that drives a legislator.

Regardless, the “Right to Work” bill has polarized politicians and workers alike. Whether you are for it or against it doesn’t matter to me. (I am for it.) What matters to me is the divisiveness surrounding this bill points out a much larger problem than the bill itself.

I only hope that the tens of thousands of visitors who spend the week in Indianapolis in preparation for Super Bowl XLVI pay attention to the men who will be playing a kid’s game next Sunday night and don’t notice the kids playing an adult game in the Statehouse.

– Mike Cooney