Political Animal


February 02, 2012 8:17 AM Indiana Smites Unions

By Ed Kilgore

Yesterday, with Gov. Mitch Daniels’ signature, Indiana became the 23d state, and the very first (other than Indiana itself during a brief period ending in 1965) in the industrial northeast and midwest, to enact “right-to-work” legislation—or as folk in the labor movement call it, a “right to work for less” law.

Politically, it could reflect a shift of conservative and Republican anti-labor strategy from a focus on reducing the strength of public-sector unions (rationalized by alleged budget savings to be achieved by reducing wages and benefits for public employees) to a broader and more open attack on organizing and collective bargaining rights.

As Abby Rapoport explains at The American Prospect, Indiana’s action is significant historically because it represents the use of right-to-work laws to dismantle, not prevent, unions:

“Right-to-work laws weaken labor for sure,” says [labor historian Jefferson] Cowie. “But they were passed in states where labor was already weak.” States throughout the South and West soon passed such legislation, and used the laws to prevent unions from gaining a foothold or gaining significant power. The laws never actually dismantled a strong union presence, but instead kept unions out for fear they would upset racial and class structures.

While conservatives will cheer Indiana’s action, you can expect the most common reaction on the Right to stray from the traditional line that other states should emulate it. Despite the renewed popularity of states’ rights rhetoric, anti-labor ideologues have recently begun demanding a national “right-to-work” law, as was reflected when Rick Santorum got beaten up by his rivals in a SC candidates’ debate for having voted against such a measure.

“States’ rights,” of course, is not the only conservative principle anti-labor zealots are willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of greater workplace power for “job-creators;” the very essence of right-to-work laws, federal or state, is to outlaw freedom of contract, since employers and unions are prohibited from signing agreements that require payment of dues in exchange for legally required collective bargaining representation.

Most supporters of “right-to-work” laws don’t even both to get into their pros and cons, just taking it for granted that unions are a bad thing and that workers struggling under their yoke would give anything to regain the right to flex their muscles in individual negotiations with their employers (joke!).

But as someone who grew up in the right-to-work Deep South, I can assure Indianans that from a psychological point of view they are about to enter a brave new world where an ever-neurotic desire to keep corporations happy always seems to trump any consideration of fair play or workers’ rights. Welcome to the Old South, Hoosiers! Misery loves company.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on February 02, 2012 8:35 AM:

    Indiana Unions!

    Hoosier Daddy?
    Mitch, da Bitch!

    And now Indiana joins in "The Right To Work Workers To Death" states.

    Corporations goin' serfin' now!

    Serfin' USA!

  • martin on February 02, 2012 8:38 AM:

    Time for the Wobblies to make a comeback. One big union and to hell with contracts.

  • SadOldVet on February 02, 2012 8:38 AM:

    Not there yet, but the repuke politicians are working hard to remake Indiana into The Mississippi of the Midwest.

    Next on the list is teaching creationism in public school science classes! That has passed the Indiana senate and the house is even more reich-wing repuke than the senate.

  • berttheclock on February 02, 2012 8:42 AM:

    Mr Kilgore, this is part and parcel of the work of the American Learning Exchange Council, which is heavily funded by the Koch Brothers. I wish you would write an indepth thread on the insidiousness of their work in state legislatures across this nation. They are behind the rampant and co-ordinated campaign against Roe v Wade, public school systems and teachers' unions, collective bargaining and anyother pet project of the Koch boys. They have many state legislators in their pockets as they have wined and dined them at seminars across the land. Herman Cain worked as a speaker for many of those seminars.

    Amazing how unpopular this new law is with the citizens of Indiana, yet, the Right Wing rushed it into law.

  • DAY on February 02, 2012 8:44 AM:

    Right to Work is Class Warfare by another name. Instigated by the Rulers against the Ruled.
    Private sector employees are told that unionized public sector workers have a better way of life (triple time, pension, health care, etc), and they are jealous.
    It would never occur to them to unionize the WalMart/McDonalds/farm workers, and get their own "better way of life".
    Caesar Chavez rolls in his grave.

  • WeTheWealthyOfIndiana on February 02, 2012 8:44 AM:

    We salute Our Bitch Mitch for signing this anti-worker legislation into law.

    However, Mitch has provided all kinds of lying justifications for the new law. We deserve to have a Mitt Romney of our own in Indiana who is not afraid to openly express scorn and contempt of the peon classes.

  • c u n d gulag on February 02, 2012 8:46 AM:

    Ed, and my beloved fellow commenters,

    I'm sorry I've been MIA for the past few days.

    I'm just writing this to let you know that it has nothing to do with the quality or quantity of Ed's work. He's terrific. As are all of you.

    My days have been spent taking my Dad to the VA and other clinics. Usually, starting early in the morning. He's undergone a lot of medical exams and test procedures.

    We should have a better idea of what he's up against with his brain cancer today, and his lungs next week - after a biopsy.

    Whatever happens, he can still walk around, he's still got his mental faculties, and he's joking, so it'll be his decision whether to undergo the chemo and radiation - which are almost as likely to kill him as his cancer(s).

    I'll be popping up here and there, when, or if, time allows.

    I just wanted to let everyone know that I didn't disappear because I was dissatisfied with Ed and/or Washington Monthly.

    Btw - it's February 2nd, and in Upstate NY, I heard the birds singing - WAAAAAAAAAY too early!

    But, there's no global warming/weirding.
    None at all...

  • The Gulag Inmates on February 02, 2012 8:56 AM:

    You WERE missed CUND Gulag. Sorry to hear about your father, sending you all positive hopes for the best possible outcome.

    ...and do pop in as much as possible.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on February 02, 2012 8:59 AM:

    @c u n d gulag

    best of luck to your Dad, and thoughts and prayers to you both.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on February 02, 2012 8:59 AM:

    @ Day - Well put . As a government worker I get so tired of hearing people bitch and moan about how we "have it made"
    Our salaries are less than the private sector and some of that is made up in benefits.
    Here in Florida they love to squawk about the State retirement program. That program is in the black and well managed , which I guess upsets them.
    I always say to those who complain about my working condition:
    Shouldn't you be asking yourself why your employer treats you so badly?
    The very rich in this country have been striving for decades to create a permanent underclass who will scramble for minimum wage no benefit jobs while they rack up billions in corporate profit.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on February 02, 2012 9:10 AM:

    re Sick-n-effn-tired...

    You make me effn-sick...

    #1 People bitch about government workers because that is what we have Fox & Rush & the boys and girls tell them.

    #2 Damn right we will continue to squawk about the Fl. state retirement program until we can raid it and turn it into the red.

    #3 Workers darn well better not complain about how badly we treat them or we will treat them to the exit door.

    #4 We have not been striving for decades to create a permanent underclass! It has been a very diligent and very successful endeavor.

    #5 Why does Governor Rick allow you to continue to have a job???

  • RepublicanPointOfView on February 02, 2012 9:11 AM:

    re sick-n-effn-tired...

    RPOV = snark

  • berttheclock on February 02, 2012 9:15 AM:

    @The Gulag Inmates and AndThenThere'sThat

    Hear Hear.

    Interesting looking at the map of the RTW states. Almost all of them are of the Red type. Funny that when one thinks of Nevada and unions, one thinks of the service unions of the casinos, yet Nevada is a RTW state. If one reads articles by the National Right To Work organization, they, virtually, bray about a trophy case of US Senators and US Representatives they have helped defeat over the years, each one had supported anti RTW laws. Of course, if one looks at the various years, arguments could be raised that many of the politicos had lost for other reasons. Look for Newt to rage against the unions on his Adelson sponsored tour of Vegas.

  • gulag's admirer on February 02, 2012 9:16 AM:

    hey cund gulag , sorry about you dad's situation. Wishing him the very best.

  • stevio on February 02, 2012 9:18 AM:

    @c u n d gulag

    Welcome back. Sorry to hear of your dad's plight. We'll place him in our prayers.

    Now, get back to the "front" with our war on knuckleheads...

  • Ron Byers on February 02, 2012 9:22 AM:

    c u n d gulag

    Let us know how your father is treated by the VA, which is the largest government run healthcare system in America.

    You and your father have our prayers and best wishes for his full recovery.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on February 02, 2012 9:26 AM:

    RepublicanPointOfView I know I know
    I appreciate your perspective everyday.
    It's kind of like the segment last night on Rachel Maddow about self deportation sarcasm that has been taken seriously by Republicans.
    (explanation @ NYT) http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/the-deep-comic-roots-of-self-deportation/
    I hope no Republicans take your ideas and run with them

  • internet tough guy on February 02, 2012 9:27 AM:

    >Welcome to the Old South, Hoosiers!

    Did it ever leave?

  • bluewave on February 02, 2012 9:30 AM:

    Indiana has probably always been the least progressive of the "I"/cornbelt states. Significant Klan activity back in the day. This may put the Tea Partiers up against a rock and a hard place, as many of their comfortable middle class lives and farms were bought with union wages, but I doubt it. The corporations eviscerated the unions back in the 80s and 90s, and Mitch's bill just put the seal on it. As in PA and other industrial states, people there long ago accepted that their kids and grandkids weren't going to have lives as good as they had themselves, and they gave up and accepted it.

  • c u n d gulag on February 02, 2012 9:35 AM:

    Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts.

    And Ron - the VA is GREAT!
    It's better than GREAT!!! TERRIFIC!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Would that we all had care like that...

  • SadOldVet on February 02, 2012 9:50 AM:

    best wishes for your father Mr. gulag...

    We have three health care systems in the United States.

    1) The socialist, government owned and operated VA system which statistically provides the best outcomes at the lowest cost.

    2) The semi-socialist system called Medicare where the government collects the 'revenue' and dispenses it to the for-profit health care system.

    3) The for-profit health care system which provides the most costly care in the world with over-all outcome statistics which are among the worst of the 'developed countries' on the planet.

    I am glad I receive my health care from the socialist system, although I wish that the admission price that I have had to pay is the government killing me in Viet Nam. I just have not died yet!

  • berttheclock on February 02, 2012 9:50 AM:

    A couple of years back, I read a comment by a disgruntled vet who complained about the young doctors at his local VA. He thought there should be more wizzened doctors working there. He was referring to the VA hospital which is near Vanderbilt Medical School. In many cities, the VA uses interns from nearby medical schools, such as Seattle using interns from the University of Washington, Portland using interns from Oregon School of Medicine from nextdoor OSHU, Salt Lake City using interns from either Brigham Young or the UofU. This happens all across the land. I have found my doctors in the VA in Portland to be excellent. One thing about those interns is they are not burned out, they are very responsive and they really do peruse your records. My diabetes Type II was caught because a young lady intern really checked my records and thought she saw a problem with my sugar level. In every case, before leaving an exam, the young doctor has his superior review the case. In Portland, we are fortunate to have one of leading specialists in colon cancer running our programs for colonoscopies. However, one note about the VA. More and more former members of our armed services are flooding into the system. Either the younger ones returning from the Middle East or older ones who no longer have employer medical insurance. So, funding is critical. As an aside, our Blue Girl has helped out many times at her nearest VA hospitals in the KC region.

  • Josef K on February 02, 2012 9:53 AM:

    I want to say something witty and draw some parallel to pre-revolutionary France, but nothing sufficient comes to mind.

    This is going to get ugly, very ugly, and I fear sooner than anyone expects.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on February 02, 2012 9:55 AM:

    All of you tree-hugging Momma's boys who rail against the for-profit health care system and in favor of the VA are barking up the wrong tree.

    Damn vets should be given a voucher and told to go buy their own health care! WTF is the point in having people get sick and injured if we cannot make a profit from it?

  • Kathryn on February 02, 2012 10:00 AM:

    Like to add my voice and positive thoughts to you and Dad, Gulag. Keep us posted when you can.

  • emjayay on February 02, 2012 10:04 AM:

    Mr. gulag: Welcome back. I (usually) do enjoy your comments. Unfortunately, I am not clever enough to figure out what your name means. I just keep thinking about prisons in Siberia.

  • Elie on February 02, 2012 10:10 AM:

    Cundgulag --

    Please take care of yourself. I wish you and your Dad the best through this very challenging time... I look forward to reading your comments and responding whenever you can pop up...

  • Rich on February 02, 2012 10:28 AM:

    Ed, I would have thought you'd know.....Inidinaa is often considered to be the northern most Southern state. Much of the state, in fact was settled by Southerners and despite eastern European immigrants who came to the NW part of the state and a sprinkling of German & Irish who were part of the migration to Cincinnati in the far South, it's easily one of the most xenophobic places N of the Mason-Dixon line. Moreover, it is very much connected to Arizona. Dan Quayle's family own papers in both places and Hoosiers disproportionately retire to Arizona.

  • jsjiowa on February 02, 2012 10:49 AM:

    I'm not sure which states you consider to be in the midwest, but Iowa has been right-to-work for a long time, so I'm not sure you can say Indiana is the first (though it is probably more industrial than Iowa, and in that way more like some of the "rust belt").

  • SadOldVet on February 02, 2012 11:02 AM:

    re Rich...

    The Pulliam family (Dan Quayle's) used to own the Indianapolis Star and the Arizona Republic! They sold them several years ago to the Gannett Corporation.

    Gannett is even more reich-wing than the Pulliam family. I miss the good old days when the Saturday edition of the Star had a guest op-ed piece by Dan Quayle to provide the liberal perspective.

  • richard on February 02, 2012 11:48 AM:

    If workers in Indiana have the right to not pay union dues to a union that they feel may not represent them in a manner commensurate with the cost, then ought not stockholders have the right to claim back the share of their dividends that would otherwise go to support politicians and political causes that do not represent them? I do not want my dividends diminished by the political efforts of my company, at least not without my explicit approval.

    States should have "right to invest" laws.

  • Mitch on February 02, 2012 11:53 AM:


    "I just keep thinking about prisons in Siberia."

    In cade Gulag doesn't see your post, I can explain his name. You are on the right track.

    See You In the Gulag ... C U N D Gulag

    He came up with it back during the Bush days when anyone who disagreed with the NeoCon garbage was considered an un-American traitor, etc.

    I love Gulag. Over the years his comments have proved insightful and hilarious. He is, without a doubt, my favorite regular here (no offense to anyone else).

  • PEA on February 02, 2012 11:57 AM:

    So the Koch bros et al are turning the US into one giant coal-mining town, complete with company store, etc. Such high ideals.

    And unfortunately this won't undermine capitalism. The demand is coming more and more from India, China, Brazil, etc. US consumers are increasingly a drop in the bucket for the biggest companies, both in #s and in purchasing power. We might have to start doing a lot more informal trading (w/o money) locally until that's outlawed. We are in the way-back machine for sure.

    Best of luck to CUND gulag and her dad!

  • bdop4 on February 02, 2012 1:29 PM:

    c u n d gulag,

    As with everyone here, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your father. We are all pulling hard for the best results possible.

    And thanks for "Hoosier Daddy" remark. Fortunately, I had put my cup down when I read the post. ROFLMAO!!!

  • catsmeow on February 02, 2012 3:13 PM:

    My state has strong unions. The jobs have mostly all gone away, and there are only a fraction of the union workers that there once were, but the unions are strong. Or better put, the ghosts of the unions are strong. You can hear them some nights rattling through abandoned factories.

  • gliderdriver on February 02, 2012 3:19 PM:

    Let the hiring begin!

  • c u n d gulag on February 02, 2012 4:44 PM:

    Thank you everyone, AGAIN :-) , for your kind thoughts.

    I feel an outpouring of love. And I'm sure that he does, too.

    He's only got a few months to six months (but, one never knows, do one?), and my job will be to make him, and my Mom, as comfortable as possible until the time comes.

    I don't know what I'd do without my WaMo family.

    Steve, and now Ed, have allowed me to keep my sanity over the years by commenting here.

    And thanks, Mitch, you explained my moniker even better than I would have! :-)

  • AlHubb on February 02, 2012 4:47 PM:

    In spite of the fact that I spent most of my working career in a union (Communication Workers of America)and have been the recipient of the benefits, I have always had reservations about forcing people to join unions. My thought is that if they are so dang good why does the government have to have laws forcing people to join them to have a job? Back in the pre-AT&T break-up days I was having a beer in the Des Moines IA ariport with a CWA contract negotiator, and mentioned that I would rather be employed at $15/hour than unemployed at $22/hour....he said, "YES!! That's exactly what the bastards want you to think!" I wasn't able to articulate that the CWA was trying to force our thinking their way to my detriment.