It is an exciting week in Indiana and not all of the action is on the football field.
While the Giants and the Patriots prepared for their Super Bowl match-up, Indiana’s state government took steps to guarantee Hoosiers the opportunity to work without having to pay dues to a labor union. On Wednesday, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed legislation to make Indiana the 23rd right-to-work state.
The enactment of Indiana’s right-to-work law may be the most significant general labor law reform adopted since the 2010 election. This law gives workers an opportunity to decide whether to join a labor organization, even if their workplace is organized, without having that decision made for them by union bosses.
From our perspective at TheTruthAboutPLAs, this is a very positive development. It will position Indiana to attract investment and this will help create much needed jobs. This is particularly true in the manufacturing and service sectors of Indiana’s economy. There is no doubt it will lead to additional construction jobs, too.
Unfortunately, the right-to-work law does not eliminate the threat of government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) in the Hoosier state. As we have explained before, PLA mandates can still occur in right-to-work states, although the PLA cannot require workers to pay full union dues. The PLA can still require contractors to recognize a labor union as the sole representative of all workers on the job, hire some or all of their workers from a union hiring hall, pay into union pension and benefit programs, and follow inefficient union work rules. The right-to-work law removes an important component of PLAs, which is to force workers to join a union as and/or pay union dues as a condition of employment, but the other provisions are burdensome enough that contractors utilizing union labor from local unions participating in PLAs are at a significant competitive advantage over their merit shop counterparts.
Indiana is no stranger to PLA activity. Super Bowl attendees will enjoy the game from Lucas Oil Stadium, a facility constructed under a wasteful and discriminatory PLA mandate. As a result, it was virtually impossible for nonunion construction workers to build this project. This kept 70 percent of Indiana’s construction workforce – those who chose not to join a labor union – from building this project, which was funded in part by their own tax dollars. Out of state license plates from construction union members flooded the area, demonstrating how a PLA does not guarantee local hire.
Additionally, the stadium project was $75 million over budget, despite burning through a $50 million contingency fund.
This is just another example of how PLA mandates not only hurt the construction workers and their families, who are deprived of the opportunity to compete for projects, but also average taxpayers.
In an interesting bit of irony, rumors are swirling around Indianapolis that some union members and ‘Occupy’ protesters are planning to protest the right-to-work law at the Super Bowl on Sunday. If protests do happen, we are sure the protesters will say they are standing up for the middle class. Someone should ask them how excluding 72 percent of Indiana’s construction workforce from building the stadium grows the middle class.