Monday, February 21, 2011


The proposed "Right to Work" bill making its way through the Indiana legislature needs to die

Here is the text I prepared and shared at Indiana State Capitol today:

I am not a union member and have never been.  I am not a paid lobbyist and have never been.  I am an urban minister.  I've invested the past 24 years of my life in the heart of Indianapolis, both as a pastor and as a community advocate.  Out of this experience arises my concern for the so-called "Right To Work" legislation that has been introduced in the Indiana State House of Representatives.

I speak up for two reasons.  First, because I take the Bible seriously, and this includes what the Bible declares consistently in both Old and New Testaments regarding social justice in general and the fair treatment of workers in particular.  Second, I speak up because in my work as an inner-city pastor, I have repeatedly heard and felt the desperation of workers--employed and unemployed--living in the shadow of downtown Indianapolis who have been routinely taken advantage of by bosses, businesses and corporations.  What I understand of this "Right to Work" legislation would give businesses and corporations more leverage collectively to further reduce wages, benefits and rights.

I do not represent faith communities, but I know what most faith communities in Indiana value regarding work and the marketplace:

We value the Bible over any ideology.
We value fair treatment of all workers.
We value fair wages for all workers.
We value justice in the marketplace.
We seek an end to people or corporations dominating people and situations.
We desire a people-centered economy that raises the value of all participants.

I would hope that all our state legislators--Republican and Democrat--would agree with these minimal principles and values.

Given this, I speak against the "Right to Work" (RTW) legislation for two reasons:

First, it is unnecessary.  Even proponents of the bill, like the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, agree that its positive impact for corporations in Indiana might be marginal.  Even without RTW and even in the tough economy we are in currently, Indiana's economic growth outpaces the nearest RTW state (Iowa).  With the potential downside of this legislation considered to quite be negatively impactful, the small possible upside doesn't seem worth the risk.

Second, this legislation is overly divisive.  It pushes a limit that is harmful both to our workforce and to a healthy business climate.  It unnecessarily further polarizes workers and business owners at an economically stressful time.  Corporations and businesses already hold a vast advantage over the rights and opportunities of hourly-wage workers.  This legislation appears to be aimed at tipping those scales further.  It is clear that, with thousands of union workers and advocates showing up at the State Capitol on the first day of a planned extended action, lots of folks feel pushed to their limit.

Besides, over 80% of Indiana citizens responding to an Indianapolis major news media outlet's survey indicated that this legislation should not come before this General Assembly.

Additionally, it appears that few citizens of our state know what "Right to Work" means or what this legislation really contains.  It is a deceptive label and a bill that most agree will weaken collective bargaining.  Of those of our citizens who HAVE taken some time to understand "Right to Work" in general and the specifics of this legislation in particular, many find it alarming.  They also appear ready to mobilize in a large way against it.

Should this legislation move out of committee, I, too, will be quite motivated to inform my fellow faith leaders and networks of friends in congregations across Indiana of the real nature of "Right to Work" and mobilize against it for the sake of a better, more equitable approach to growing Indiana's economy and quality of life.

So, I urge my representatives in the Indiana House of Representatives, do what you can now to kill this bill.  Then, let's open a real dialogue for what's right, good and possible for Indiana's workers, businesses and all its citizens.

Links about this "Right to Work" legislation will be posted below.

Indianapolis Star story and photos on the day's activity -
Labor Committee Passes Bill along party lines -
Bad for Indiana -
Right to Work via Wikipedia -
Right to Work Indiana -
Central Indiana Jobs With Justice -

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