More than 100 people gathered Tuesday evening at a rally to oppose “right-to-work” legislation in Indiana, including Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry.
Until the rally, Henry had not publicly taken a stance in the right-to-work debate, but Tuesday night he spoke in opposition of the initiative because he said there was little proof that the state was not attractive to businesses because it was not a right-to-work state.
Henry was joined by Angola Mayor Richard Hickman and Allen County Democratic Party Chairman Mike Bynum who also spoke at the rally.
Currently, 22 states are considered to be “right-to-work” states. These states ban businesses and private unions from signing contracts requiring that all workers pay union dues.
Opponents, like Henry, say the proposal attempts to break down organized labor and drives down working wages.
Supporters of right to work argue that the state is missing opportunities to attract businesses because it is not a right-to-work state. Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he supports enacting a right-to-work law in Indiana.
The proposal was what prompted Statehouse Democrats to walk out of the last legislative session. A joint hearing on the proposal of the House and Senate labor committees is scheduled for Friday.
A number of economic development organizations in northeast Indiana have passed resolutions supporting right to work. In a statement, Regional Chamber Executive Director Matt Bell said right to work is about opportunities for the local workforce.
“Our communities don't even get the chance to compete for every project that could bring new jobs. When right to work passes, I am confident that northeast Indiana's talented workforce…will attract new employers.”
Union leaders, workers and area politicians who attended Tuesday's rally were much more skeptical.
“I want proof (businesses) won't come to Indiana because we're not a right-to-work state,” said Henry.
Carmen Darland, chair of the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Party, also read remarks from Democratic legislators Win Moses and Phil GiaQuinta. Darland said she organized the rally to show state legislators that “union folks and workers are going to fight right to work this session.”
Gregory Stephens, vice president of United Construction Workers Association Local 901, said he's done research on other right-to-work states and found that all workers in those states earn less, not just organized laborers.
“I'm a true believer that right to work is not good for Indiana,” he said.