Indiana joins right-to-work ranks, Gov. Daniels signs bill

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Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the "right to work" bill Wednesday afternoon, making Indiana the first Rust Belt state to enact the controversial labor law prohibiting labor contracts that require workers to pay union representation fees.

Gov. Daniels signed the bill Wednesday after it passed the Senate following weeks of discord that saw House Democrats boycott the Legislature and thousands of protesters gather at the Statehouse.

Indiana is the first state in a decade to enact a right-to-work law.

Supporters say the measure helps create a pro-business climate that attracts employers and increases jobs. Opponents say right to work leads to lower wages and poorer quality jobs.

Protesters say the fight isn't over and note that Indiana passed right to work once before but repealed it. Some plan to distribute leaflets at Sunday's Super Bowl.

Union protests at Super Bowl Village

It started on the east side of the Statehouse as people waited to get in for the debate to come. Others looked down from the parking garage across the street.

"It's a war on the working man," said Arlis Weaver.

It was just as congested inside the Statehouse, but the debate was not so one-sided.

"Our greatest adversary is fear.  Only the future can cure it. But I believe these numbers will show our only concern here today is the fear," said Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis).

"Right to work is a race to the bottom. A downward spiral to lower wages and fewer benefits," said Sen. Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington).

In the hallway union demonstrators stood shoulder to shoulder as the vote was tallied 28-22 in favor. Then the mass migration began to the south lawn where they stood as one, chanting slogans like "Remember in November," and "United we stand, divided we fall," as they marched and carried signs. Police on motorcycles and police K9s were brought in to help control the crowd.

"They ain't seen nothing yet," promised one protester.

Sen. Simpson addressed the crowd outside the Statehouse before the march.

"My dad who is looking down on us today who was a meat cutter, which merged into the UFCW, he would be proud of you and I hope to God he's proud of me," she said. "I have a short simple message. My friends, elections matter. In 2008, we had some success and we got lazy. In 2010, some of our friends, some of our neighbors, stayed home or voted Republican. We can never, ever let that happen again. The Republicans do not speak for you."

Then they marched down Capitol Ave. as citizens of the first right to work Rust Belt state and the 23rd such state nationwide.

Union workers marched from the Indiana Statehouse to Super Bowl Village Wednesday after the state Senate passed the "right to work" bill in the morning.

They chanted, "Remember in November," and "United we stand, divided we fall," as they marched and carried signs. Police on motorcycles and police K9s were brought in to help control the crowd outside the Statehouse but allowed the marchers into the village. The crowd appeared to number in the low thousands by the time it reached Super Bowl Village.

Opponents have accused Republicans of rushing the bill to avoid disrupting the Feb. 5 Super Bowl. The AFL-CIO planned a Statehouse rally and a march through downtown after the vote.

Indiana will be the first state in a decade to enact a right-to-work law, although few states with legislation in place boast Indiana's union clout, borne of a long manufacturing legacy.

The move is likely to embolden national right-to-work advocates who have unsuccessfully pushed the measure in other states following a Republican sweep of statehouses in 2010.

Passage of the law will close one chapter in a contentious debate that sparked a five-week walkout by outnumbered House Democrats last year and saw them stage numerous boycotts this session, delaying action on other bills and threatening to spill over into Sunday's Super Bowl.

Statement from Gov. Daniels:

"Seven years of evidence and experience ultimately demonstrated that Indiana did need a right-to-work law to capture jobs for which, despite our highly rated business climate, we are not currently being considered. 

"This law won't be a magic answer but we'll be far better off with it. I respect those who have objected but they have alarmed themselves unnecessarily: no one's wages will go down, no one's benefits will be reduced, and the right to organize and bargain collectively is untouched and intact.

"The only change will be a positive one. Indiana will improve still further its recently earned reputation as one of America's best places to do business, and we will see more jobs and opportunity for our young people and for all those looking for a better life."

Statement from Joe Chorpenning, President of Local 700 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW):

"This is a sad day in the history of our state. Despite broad public opposition, Indiana Republicans have rammed through a controversial right-to-work law that provides Hoosier families no rights and no work. It is nothing more than political payback to big corporations at the expense of Indiana workers. Instead of creating jobs, right-to-work creates more wealth for the richest 1 percent by lowering wages, cutting benefits, and weakening collective bargaining rights. On a week when we should be celebrating Indiana as host of the Super Bowl, Governor Daniels and Republicans in the legislature have instead brought shame to our state. All Hoosiers deserve better than this from their government."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.