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PORTSIDELABOR  February 2012, Week 2

PORTSIDELABOR February 2012, Week 2

Subject:

Reader Response: Indiana and Right-to-Work

From:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 13 Feb 2012 23:25:15 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (207 lines)

Reader Response: Indiana and Right-to-Work

Dear Portside Labor,

Professor Fink's article [originally from Salon.com]
significantly misrepresents the numbers, militancy, and
ongoing fightback of unionized workers and Occupy
groups in reference to the effort to defeat the
recently passed right-to-work legislation. Below is
just one essay I wrote on the subject (of many). He can
also consult various reports on Democracy Now. In
addition, there were thousands of workers assembling
daily at the State House last spring, and 19 Democrats
in the state legislature who absented themselves then
and for a shorter time this winter. He is correct to
suggest that union density in Indiana has significantly
declined but those many trade unionists, often from the
Building Trades, and their friends, have been engaged
and energized. Many of them promise to be engaged in
the fall elections and how state legislators voted on
Right-to-Work will be a determinate cause of their
behavior.

Harry Targ

Right to Work (for less) in Indiana:
The Super Bowl of anti-worker legislation
by Harry Targ
The Rag Blog
January 30, 2012

    "The heart of the Super Bowl action will be in
    downtown Indianapolis at the three-block
    interactive fan environment known as Super Bowl
    Village. AFC and NFC fans, families, visitors and
    locals alike can enjoy this ultimate, free fan zone
    that spans from Bankers Life Fieldhouse all the way
    to the NFL Experience at the Indiana Convention
    Center via the newly redesigned Georgia Street.

    In addition to endless entertainment, interactive
    games, Tailgate Town, live concerts on two
    different stages, bars and other attractions, fans
    can also fly over Super Bowl Village with four zip
    lines that traverse Capitol Avenue." --
    VisitIndy.com

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana -- One hundred passionate
activists from labor and occupy groups around the state
of Indiana assembled at the State House on Saturday,
January 28, to continue opposition to the pending
"Right-to-Work-for-Less" bill which appears to be close
to final endorsement by the legislature and Indiana
Governor Mitch Daniels.

Ironically, Alcoa Corporation just announced the
expansion of plant facilities in Lafayette, Indiana,
prior to the passage of the odious anti-worker bill
that Governor Daniels has claimed will bring more jobs
to Indiana. A plant in Iowa, a Right-to-Work State,
lost its bid for the Alcoa plant expansion to Indiana,
not yet such a state.

Workers in the Lafayette plant are represented by
United Steel Workers of America Local 115.

The Indiana House of Representatives last week voted
54-44 to endorse a Right-To-Work bill (several
Republicans voted "no" with their Democratic
colleagues). Now the bill returns to the Indiana Senate
for discussion of amendments to the bill and final
passage before it goes to the desk of the Governor for
his signature. Despite the fact that he had promised
labor in the past that he would not support such a
bill, the Governor made it his top priority item in the
2012 legislative session.

The intense political battle over RTW has occurred in
the context of enormous celebration of the impending
arrival of 150,000 NFL fans to the Super Bowl which
will be played in Indianapolis on Sunday, February 5.
Indianapolis big money interests have been lobbying for
this event for years, hoping to put the city on the map
for hosting huge money-making events such as the
football classic.

Two buses of RTW protesters traveled from Lafayette,
Indiana, and Purdue University, 65 miles away, to the
rally. After spirited speeches, including remarks from
three state legislators, representatives from building
trades unions, students, and professors, rally
organizers led a march through the Super Bowl village
in downtown Indianapolis. Marchers were seen by
thousands of Super Bowl celebrants who were roaming
around the village spending money in dozens of food and
entertainment venues.

Demonstrators encountered some hostile reactions,
including physical jostling, but also numerous thumbs
up and clenched fists in support of protestors carrying
placards demanding "Kill the Bill," "Workers United
Will Prevail," and "Occupy Purdue."

Opposition to Right-to-Work has a decade-long history
around the state since the governorship and the Indiana
House of Representatives has shifted from Republican to
Democrat and then Republican control. The Republicans,
for their part, are committed to destroying the labor
movement not only to reduce labor costs but also to end
political opposition to their domination of state
government.

Among the responses has been the Indiana Coalition for
Worker Rights initiated by the Northwest Central Labor
Council, AFL-CIO, in 2006, "to educate and mobilize
workers to demand and defend worker rights." It pledged
itself to:

    educate union members and the public about the
    negative consequences of "Right-to-Work (for Less)"
    legislation;
    challenge the general shift toward privatization of
    public institutions such as schools, libraries, and
    health care delivery systems;
    mobilize citizens to support a living wage for all
    workers, affordable health care and education, and
    greater worker rights to participate in the
    workplace and the political system;
    and work with others to create a coalition of
    informed citizens "who believe that the protection
    of workers' rights is the bedrock of our democratic
    society."

In the summer of 2011, a coalition representing various
progressive groups in the Greater Lafayette community
formed to work on reproductive health care, civil
liberties, peace, and labor rights. The new
organization, the Indiana Rebuild the American Dream
Coalition, held jobs and justice rallies in downtown
Lafayette in November.

Parallel to these developments the Tippecanoe Building
and Construction Trades AFL-CIO and Occupy Purdue and
Occupy Lafayette have mobilized around Right to Work
and a whole range of issues that concern the 99 per
cent.

It is clear from the experiences of small communities
such as those in Tippecanoe County (Lafayette and West
Lafayette are the population centers) and various other
communities all across Indiana that so-called "outside"
and "inside" strategies are needed to fight back
against the draconian efforts to destroy worker rights,
to promote acceptable living conditions for all, and to
begin to create a better world.

Outside strategies include mass mobilizations,
protests, educational forums, and dramatic public
displays of peoples' views in venues such as the Super
Bowl celebrations.

Jim Ogden, Lafayette, union electrician from IBEW Local
668, articulated a strategy of how best to connect the
mass mobilizations to electoral work, a so-called
"inside strategy":

    We realize that at this point where it's at in the
    legislation. We probably will not stop this.

    At this point, I think we're looking at this as a
    kickoff for the elections in November. And trying
    to do whatever we can to get the Republicans that
    had voted for this, to get them out of office.
    (Journal and Courier, January 29, 2012)

It is clear that the electoral process cannot alone
defend workers rights. However, in the context of the
immediate needs of the 99 percent, elections, in
conjunction with massive public expressions of protest,
must constitute a critical component of the work of
progressives in the months ahead.

[Harry Targ is a professor of political science at
Purdue University who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana.
He blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical -- and that's
also the name of his new book which can be found at
Lulu.com. Read more of Harry Targ's articles on The Rag
Blog.]

____________________________________________

PortsideLabor aims to provide material of interest to
people on the left that will help them to interpret the
world and to change it.

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