Sunday, February 12, 2012

Has Rupert Outflanked Gregg On Right To Work?

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg startled pro-union Democrats with his recent comments showing indifference to the passage of a new law making Indiana the 23rd state in the country to adopt a right to work law. In an e-mailed statement following passage of the new law, Gregg said: "It's time to move beyond this divisive issue," Gregg said. "Indiana needs a governor and a legislature that show up for work every day and work together with one focus -- creating jobs, whether it's for a union or nonunion workplace. Because in the end, it doesn't matter if you're in a union or not -- if you get laid off, you're not bringing home a paycheck," he said. After a number of Democrats reacted angrily to Gregg's e-mail, he was forced to clarify his comment to reassure unions of his support of opposition to right to work.

As Gregg was angering some of his strongest supporters, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Rupert Boneham staked out a position that arguably allowed him to outflank Gregg among union workers. He released the following statement taking a jab at Gregg's statement and assured workers that he would fight to repeal the new law if elected governor:

Even as an active and proud union member, I believe no one should be forced to join or pay fees to another group as a condition of employment, but the State has NO authority or right to legislate the contracts between a private company and its work force. Private businesses and their workforce could have used “closed shop” as a positive trade during the formation of the union shop or during contract negotiations. They could have traded compulsory union membership for things like merit over seniority, lower healthcare cost matching or better benefits packages . . .  
Some in this race to be Indiana's next Governor are shying away from the RTW discussion. While they're saying things like "It's time to move beyond this . . ", , I am proudly and loudly saying that, as Governor, I will fight to repeal this intrusion into private businesses. I will work to restore the legally contracted rights of private workers and unions. Together, we will repeal this, like we did in 1965.
Boneham added in his statement that he would have instead "focused on public contracts for outside goods and services" and "revis[ing the state's] current standards of preference for ALL bids on state contracts for goods and services." It's not clear from Boneham's statement whether he favors a repeal of the state's prevailing wage law, which is still a sticking point for many. Republicans set out to repeal that law when they gained control of the legislature back in 1994, but after unions raised such a ruckus, they backed off and only tinkered with the law to provide that wages paid on public construction projects had be based on a "common construction wage" as opposed to the "prevailing wage." After the new law was implemented, it turned out that the common construction wage continued to be the prevailing wage law. Indiana law continues to discriminate against non-union construction companies in the awarding of public construction projects and has the effect of driving up the costs of those projects. The problem is exacerbated by labor agreements the state and local government enter into that prevent even non-union shops which agree to pay their workers the prevailing wage from participating in public construction projects.

Union workers traditionally favor Democratic candidates and seldom support Libertarian candidates. Many people have figured that Boneham will draw more votes from Republican Mike Pence than Gregg, but Boneham is a much different candidate than your typical Libertarian candidate who has absolutely no name recognition or visibility. Boneham starts the race with relatively high name recognition and positives based on his successful run on the "Survivor" reality TV show. It's not a stretch to see Boneham having strong appeal among blue collar voters. Gregg's unguarded comments on right to work may provide Boneham a big opening to go after voters most political pundits would have assumed are firmly in Gregg's camp.

1 comment:

Marycatherine Barton said...

Yes. Way to go, Rupert.