As Indiana's Mitch Daniels Pushes Another Anti-Union Bill, Do Unions Still Matter in Politics?


Republican Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana was responsible for delivering the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address earlier this week. Daniels has been embroiled in a battle over right-to-work legislation that came to a final debate Wednesday in the Indiana statehouse.

Should the legislation be enacted, the Hoosier state will become the first of the “Rust Belt” states to pass such a bill. This follows last year’s contentious passage of a similar bill in Wisconsin where Republican Governor Scott Walker successfully lobbied state lawmakers to curb the ability of state employees to collectively bargain for increased pay and benefits.

Opponents of the Indiana bill argue that it would substantially weaken unions by allowing non-members to benefit from the collective bargaining process without having to pay membership dues. Supporters claim that the new law is necessary to attract business to the state, an appealing proposition given the state of the economy.

Typically, Democrats have been the biggest proponents of unions and collective bargaining powers. This year, however, some unions have chosen to boycott the Democratic National Convention.

The DNC will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, this year. North Carolina is the most anti-union state in the nation with a 2010 membership rate of only 3.2%. Some unions see this as a marginalization of the labor movement, and are expressing their concern.

Choosing Daniels to represent the party signaled the Republicans wish to focus on job creation in the upcoming election year, and intend to do so with through practices championed by Daniels and Walker. The Democrats are facing their own blowback from the unions for the selection of non-union state to host the convention.

All this begs the question: Do unions still matter in politics?