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Indiana to Repeal Vital Private Sector Wage Protection; 12 Republicans Buck Party, Back Labor

via Chicago Tribune

via Chicago Tribune

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Despite massive outcry, the Indiana State Senate passed HB 1019 on Wednesday by a 27-22 vote, repealing the state’s Common Construction Wage (CCW).  12 Republicans bucked the extremists in their party and voted against repeal, but it was not enough to save the 80-year-old system.  House Republicans will now caucus to decide whether to pass the bill in its current form. It was amended by the Senate to feign compromise following the House’s initial passage.

Gov. Mike Pence will sign the bill into law if it lands on his desk.  From his gleeful statement:

“When the Indiana Senate voted today to repeal  the common construction wage, they put taxpayers first, providing much-needed relief to cash-strapped local governments and schools.”

Many of the Republicans who voted against repeal argued that the bill would cut wages for Indiana workers and ultimately hurt the state’s economy.  Among them was State Sen. Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville), who said: “I do not think this is good for middle class Indiana.  In fact, I know it’s not good for middle class Indiana.”

During debate, Becker noted that 69 percent of Indiana residents currently make below $20 an hour.  “Is that what you want for your constituents?” she asked. “It’s not what I want for my constituents. And for that reason, I’m going to be voting no.”

Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) argued that repeal would make little positive change in Indiana, asking rhetorically, “Which type of company do you want to get the job?”

Democratic opponents of repeal took a more hardline tone during debate predicting disastrous results.  “This bill has been offered to attempt to fix some problem,” State Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) said. “I do not agree with the premise. There is no problem.”

Tallian added: “How do we expect to attract this great workforce when, by actions like this, we’re going to cut their wages and say, ‘Forget it, you don’t need to come to Indiana?’”

Lora Gandy, owner of United Air Works, was in the hallway with other union contractors as the senate voted.  She told Fox59 that only time will tell if she has to cut her workers wages.

“We’ll have to wait and see how the markets react to it.  If we become less competitive and not able to win bids, we’ll have to regroup as union contractors and take a look at the wages we’re paying.”

Prior to repeal, weeks of messaging flooded the airwaves of Indiana.  Union organizations aired commercials arguing that wages would be impacted, while the right-wing saturated TV and radio with misinformation and fuzzy math at the behest of groups such as Americans for Prosperity and the Indiana Opportunity Fund.  

The bill is the latest blow to labor in the state of Indiana, which has seen major changes since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.  In 2012, the state went “Right-to-Work.”  Last year, the major city of Fort Wayne voted to end collective bargaining.  And now the state’s private sector is feeling the fire.

The bill’s author, Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel), told the Indianapolis Star that House Republicans have not indicated whether they will accept the amended bill as is or send it back to committee.  The current legislative session ends on April 29th.  


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