Don’t be surprised if you wake up on March 15th (the same days as the Ides of March, ironically) and find yourself in the 23rd “Right to Work” (RTW) state in the country. RTW for Indiana is inevitable. A full House vote is coming, and RTW will pass. It won’t be a sweeping majority, I count about five House Republican “no” votes right now, but it will happen. it will be the law that you can’t force someone to pay union dues or fees as a condition of their employment. The fact that House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer cut a deal with House Speaker Brian Bosma Wednesday for the measure to move forward was the last thing I needed to know. But even if you eliminate the deal cut by the Speaker and the Leader the signs were already there that this fight was over. Here they are…
- A Political and PR mistake. The first serious misstep Democrats made was when the Governor reinstated the original Statehouse policy on access and lifted the 3,000 person limit. House Democrats could have used that headline to gain momentum in their fight, however they walked out instead, becoming the news themselves. Also, sequels are usually never as good as the originals. Democrats had already walked out before when they went to Champaign last year. So that tactic had already been done, so the impact was lessened.
- Public comments by the Democrats. In a news conference last week, Bauer admitted that they can’t stay gone indefinitely. At a public hearing in Ft. Wayne, State Rep. Win Moses told the audience, the Republicans have the vote to pass RTW.
- “Defections” in the ranks over strategy. Already State Reps. Steve Stemler, Dave Cheatham and Peggy Welch were not participating in the walkout. Note, Welch did join later after the fight at committee hearing. They were later joined by Ed DeLaney and Dale Grubb, who lost his caucus leadership position over wanting to fight RTW on the floor instead of in a room adjacent to the Supreme Court.
- Time and money. House Democrats were gone for 3 days and returned to work on the first day they were eligible for anti-bolting statute fines, $1,000 per day. Even if they had stayed out for 3 days after the House Labor & Pension committee hearing, they would had have come back Friday to avoid fines. Assuming the committee report on RTW would have been adopted, the bill would have been eligible for second reading on Tuesday or Wednesday of the next week. We can safely say that Democrats would have loaded up the measure with amendments, they would all be defeated and the they would caucus again. Once again, another three days out and return, so the bill would be eligible for 3rd reading on Monday the 23rd. And if you don’t think the Speaker was ready to bring down the hammer of fines, read this letter he sent to Pat Bauer.
Throw in the deal and the fact the fines were about to come down, you can see my point. Now this does not mean Democrats are going down without a fight. The AFL-CIO had two town hall meetings on Wednesday in Bedford and Jeffersonville on RTW. A rally is planned for today at the Statehouse where demonstrators are supposed to wear their favorite NFL Jersey and then march down to Lucas Oil Stadium. This is in response to the NFL Player’s Union coming out against RTW. Procedurally, I would not be surprised if Democrats have more than 100 amendments to file on Tuesday on RTW. The interesting part of that equation will see how the Republicans handle it and do they put limits on the number of amendments offered and does that spark another day or two away for the Democrats?
Regardless, unless some major event of almost Biblical proportion happens, RTW is going to pass. It is inevitable. There are too many moving parts that are aligning for it not to happen. The question at the end of the day will be were the Democrats’ exercises in fighting RTW ones of futility or democracy?