Russ Stilwell: Going nowhere on a fast train
Monday, January 16, 2012 2:51 AM
BOONVILLE - Last month I made a couple of predictions about what Right to Work will deliver to the Indiana General Assembly. Unfortunately, I was right.
What were those predictions? “Right to Work legislation will take the 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly on an absolute crawl so broad and consuming that Hoosiers will think it has come to an absolute halt.” I think that was an understatement.
I predicted, “There will be more protests, more lobbying and more television and news shows focusing on this one single issue than all other issues combined in years past. RTW will take the breath out of every other issue before the legislature.” Ditto!
And I predicted that national pundits will set up shop in Indiana and make our Hoosier state the centerpiece of what’s wrong with America. And just in time for the Super Bowl week with an international audience! Ditto again!
Sometimes I just hate for bad predictions to become authenticated. This is the critical mass week for RTW. Want to get this entire mess behind us and begin the work that most folks elected our legislative members for in the first place?
Pick the poison that takes this issue off the table. It not a top 10 list, but it just might be worth taking a look at.
1. Take the bill off the agenda, stuff it in a sock made in China and hang it from the Hoosier windmills in NW Indiana that are made in Europe. Not likely.
2. Maybe, just maybe, the House and Senate Republicans could realize that putting off this fast-tracking of RTW could bring reasonable minds together and solutions could be achieved with a more deliberate approach. Did I say this would also enable us to have a demonstration-free Super Bowl celebration as well? Nope, ain’t gonna happen either.
3. You know what? Maybe the House Democrat Leader and the House Speaker both have a good idea. Let’s fully disclose where all the money is coming from on the myriad of ads that are dominating our radios, our flat screens and public media. Seems logical that the public would want to know from whom and where the money is coming from. Is it from Hoosiers or outside interests? You know what? When a decent idea like this comes forth, you know it ain’t gonna happen.
4. Here’s one for the RTW advocates. Make sure that every legislator knows what RTW really means. When the House majority leader appears confused, wanna bet that there’s a whole lot more? Case in point:
Go to democracynow.com and see the interview between Rep. Kreg Battles and House Majority Leader Bill Friend that occurred on January 5. When asked whether workers should pay a fee to their union for representation, Friend responded, “I think that is a very discussible issue. The issue of payment of fees is a point worthy of discussion. I don’t object to that.”
What? Paying a fee for union representation is the very essence of what RTW is all about! If the House majority leader is confused on this issue, one would presume that most of the rest of his caucus is baffled as well. And what about the general public? Does this mean that we need more education? Duh? Does this mean that RTW will slow down from the fast-track ? No chance. It’s all about cramming this issue to the Gov’s desk before the Super Bowl!
5. How about a novel idea? Let’s let the people decide. What? Let the people decide the most divisive issue in generations? When legislators don’t even know what RTW is really all about, how can the public know? Most reasonable Hoosiers don’t have a clue what RTW is about. If we can’t have democracy in the Statehouse, maybe we can give it back to the Hoosier voters.
6. Maybe we should take a deep breath, take RTW off the fast-track path and put it on a state referendum and let democracy work. Let the people decide seems like a reasonable approach. Who benefits? Everyone.
House Ds get a breather and the House Rs can renew the Daniels aggressive agenda without interruption. And Hoosiers can begin the process of educating themselves about whether or not RTW is sound public policy. Betcha there’s a bunch of House Rs who would like for the people to decide as well. Then they wouldn’t have to make that dreadful vote and pay the piper this fall.
7. Wanna bet the Chamber, the Republican leadership and the out-of-state financiers of the RTW campaign think this kind of democracy is a good idea? Nope, they’re not going to let RTW off the rails. It’s muscle flexing time.
Most observers recognize that this isn’t about fairness for Hoosier workers. It’s about payback time. It is all about the business community and their Republican allies banding together to weaken unions and help make our state be union free. Generally, when you let the people decide, sound logic and good decisions often prevail.
8. NY Times: “Democrats resumed their boycott of Indiana House sessions Tuesday after the Republican-controlled labor committee approved Right-to-Work legislation in six minutes without public testimony, committee debate or amendments.” This short but true statement should shame every Hoosier and encourage every state legislator to stop and take a breath. It should motivate them to slow down the RTW freight train, get it right and listen to the people. Oh, if it was only that easy. It isn’t and they won’t!
9. We now have fewer than 24 days in the countdown for the Super Bowl in Indy. We will be on the international stage for a week, and more. And what will we be sharing the spotlight with? You got it . . . Right to Work and the fast train to nowhere. Surely cooler heads can prevail and slow it down before it careens off the rails.
10. This debate reminds me of the Van Morrison song, “Fast Train.” The RTW fast train. “Well you’ve been on a fast train and it’s going off the rails ... And you can’t come back, can’t come back together again ... And you start breaking down... In the pouring rain ... Well you’ve been on a fast train.” The lyrics were as poignant then as they are now. RTW is on a fast train and it’s going off the rails. Let’s allow the people decide and put it on the train of Hoosier democracy.
Stilwell is a former Democratic House majority leader.