Up until now, Indiana has been overshadowed by Wisconsin and Ohio in the fight over rights for unionized workers. But it is getting its turn in the spotlight.
Hundreds of unionized workers from throughout Indiana descended on the State Capitol this week to protest what they see as series of union busting bills pushed by the GOP. Some aim to limit collective bargaining for teachers to only wages.
Others seek to have Indiana become a right-to-work state, making mandatory union membership as a condition of employment illegal.
WEATHERBY: You’ve got the Republican people that have no regard for the common man.
That’s Kevin Weatherby of Indianapolis.
He’s a produce manager at a local grocery store and union member.
Weatherby says he worries about his $15-an-hour wages getting cut if the right to work legislation passes.
WEATHERSBY: You know, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But it’s time for us to stand up.
But Democrats here aren’t standing up … but running away.
Just like their Wisconsin counterparts, Indiana House Democrats also fled to Illinois … not to Chicago but to the university town of Urbana, two hours away from Indianapolis.
KUBACKI: It’s cowardly.
That’s how Republican representative Rebecca Kubacki describes the actions of her Democratic colleagues on the House floor in Indianapolis on Thursday.
KUBACKI: If you have such a strong position, come here and defend it. Come here and cast your vote.
BAUER: Some have categorized it as bravery.
That’s Pat Bauer, the leader of the House Democrats who are far outnumbered by Republicans.
Although in the majority, the GOP still needs Democrats to have a quorum.
I spoke to Bauer in the hallway of the Comfort Suites hotel he and 30 other Democrats have been staying at in Urbana for the last two weeks.
Bauer says staying away from the Indiana Statehouse has been the only way his party has stopped the continuation of eroding union rights.
That erosion, he says, started in 2005 when Indiana’s then newly elected Governor Mitch Daniels issued an executive order outlawing unionizing by state public employees.
Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker hopes to emulate his mentor Daniels … a possible presidential candidate next year.
House Democratic leader Pat Bauer.
BAUER: This is a process where we are trying to deradicalize the majority who are trying to cut the wages of thousands of workers in Indiana. When they agree that they are not going to do that or help minimize that impact of that in some way, we’ll come back.
But House Majority Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican, isn’t budging … even as Friday marked the end of the second week of the walkout by Democrats.
BOSMA: I’m not going to concede to a list of demands. We’re not going to agree to what they originally demanded: These 11 bills have to come off the calendar and can’t dealt with this session. I’m never going to concede to that particularly when it’s only 37 people trying to tell the remaining 63 what to do.
Unlike in Wisconsin and Ohio, in Indiana, it’s Bosma, not Indiana’s governor, that’s leading the attack on Democrats.
In fact, Daniels says right to work legislation shouldn’t even be dealt with this year.
But Bosma isn’t backing down.
He says if the boycotting Democrats aren’t back at the Statehouse by Monday, each absent member will be fined $250 a day and faces a possible censure, a rare occurrence in Indiana.
BOSMA: Live by the results and the remedy is the next election. It’s not to go sit in the hot tube in Illinois until you get your way.