News from the Conservative Legislation Lab

When I was a kid growing up in Northwest Indiana in the 1980s, there were two things I was really scared off: Nuclear war and my dad being laid off. The first was an incessantly-evoked threat which hung over our heads like the specter of terrorism does now. When adults would talk about "the bombs" being dropped, they would give a mirthless laugh and say things like at least we'll be first to go because we lived at the feet of steel giants. The Communists would take out the steel mills first, and we'd go with them.

The second was scary to me because, even as the steel mills remained a supposed target for "the bombs," they were collapsing, leaving the most popular occupation among my friends' fathers "laid off." There were a lot of dads at home when I was a kid, some of whom were angry and smelled like booze in the morning, and some of whom were friendly and hopeful and talked about "getting back on the job" someday, and some of whom just looked empty and hollow as they stared into the distance of an uncertain future.

I was scared my dad might become one of those dads, because I didn't understand that my fear was unfounded. My dad didn't work at the mill; my dad was a teacher, a unionized worker employed by the state, whose job was secure.

Northwest Indiana has never recovered from the decimation of its steel industry, and now the Republicans of the state legislature want to erode what remaining security there is for the dwindling number of unionized workers with "a so-called right to work (RTW) bill that Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) says is at the top of the state's agenda."

The AFL-CIO has a fact sheet on right to work laws here, which weaken collective bargaining and eventually erode both workers' rights and compensation: "The average worker in a right to work state makes about $5,333 a year less than workers in other states." And here's even more from the Economic Policy Institute, which also looks at what the real effects of a RTW law have been in Oklahoma:
In the 10 years since the law was passed, the number of new companies coming into the state has decreased by one-third (Oklahoma Department of Commerce 2011).

...In the 10 years since Oklahoma adopted its right-to-work law, the number of manufacturing jobs in the state has fallen by one-third (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011).
Indiana will be the first state in more than a decade to enact right-to-work legislation if the Republicans in the state legislature ram it through this week.

As you may recall, Indiana state Democrats walked out last year to protest this same Republican foolery; in the interim, the Republican majority established a new rule that fines them $1,000 a day for conscientious absenteeism.

Although this is happening in Indiana, it should be of grave concern to all USians, especially those in purple-leaning-red and red states—because Indiana has, over the past couple of years under the garbage leadership of Mitch Daniels, turned into a conservative legislation lab, which is why we now lead the nation in anti-abortion restrictions, and why Indiana is the new front on eroding workers' rights.

What's happened in Indiana is that the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded entity leading the corporatocratic charge to steal control of the nation from its people, has 17 of its task force members seated in the Indiana House of Representatives and 5 of its task force members seated in the Indiana Senate. In fact, Senator Jim Buck from IN-21 is a member of ALEC's Board of Directors.

Indiana is "now playing a central role in ALEC's agenda."

This model of corporate takeover will be rolled out state-by-state if successful in Indiana. If that sounds like some kind of tinfoil conspiracy, well, it's not. It's all being done right out in the open, where nobody's paying any attention.

What can you do? Well, if you live in Indiana, you can sign this petition in support of Indiana workers. If you don't live in Indiana, please consider donating here or here to support the Indiana House Democrats and/or here to support the Indiana State AFL-CIO in their fight against this heinous legislation and similar bids to erode workers' rights.

They're not going to stop with Indiana. They just started here, because we already lack the resources and progressive infrastructure to effectively fight. Help.

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