Indiana Democrats end stand-off on union rights

By Susan Guyett

INDIANAPOLIS, March 28 (Reuters) – Indiana lawmakers ended
a five-week standoff on Monday as Democrats wrung compromises
in Republican-sponsored bills they see as part of a national
push to strip U.S. public sector unions of bargaining rights.

Most of Indiana’s 40 Democratic House representatives
departed Indiana for Illinois last month to deny the 60
Republicans a quorum to pass any legislation, much as Wisconsin
Senate Democrats created a weeks-long stalemate there by
fleeing that state.

In several states, newly elected Republican governors and
new or expanded Republican legislative majorities have
introduced proposals to strip public sector unions of
bargaining rights.

Republicans say changes are needed to reign in budget
deficits while Democrats and their labor union backers say the
proposals amount to union-busting. Democrats fear they will
undermine one of the party’s key bases of electoral support.

Ultimately, Wisconsin’s Republicans maneuvered to pass the
union bill without the Democrats present, though the outcome
remains in doubt as opponents have sued to block the law.

But in Indiana, the missing House Democrats succeeded in
paralyzing the legislature, forcing Republicans to compromise.

House Republican leader Brian Bosma said changes were made
to two bills the Democrats had opposed, but he did not consider
the changes “substantive.”

Democrats said Republicans dropped a legislative proposal
to permanently ban collective bargaining by public employees —
a policy that was imposed a few years ago by Republican
Governor Mitch Daniels but not enshrined in state law.

Republicans also dropped a “right-to-work” proposal that
would have barred a requirement that workers pay union dues as
a condition of employment.

The compromises were “not perfect” but workable, said
Indiana House Democratic Leader B. Patrick Bauer.

“The time out forced by Democrats gave (Indiana residents)
an opportunity to examine the radical agenda being attempted in
Indiana and to speak out,” Bauer said in a statement.
(Reporting by Susan Guyett and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by
Jerry Norton, Andrew Stern and Todd Eastham)

Indiana Democrats end stand-off on union rights