By: Brian Sikma
Indiana unions have been very good to Indiana Democrats. Minority Leader Pat Bauer netted over $76,200 in contributions from union PACs in his 2010 re-election campaign. Just one SEIU-affiliated PAC in Indiana gave 158% more contributions to Democrats than Republicans that same cycle and two top local SEIU operatives have a record of giving exclusively to Democratic candidates and local parties.
Perhaps it is at the behest of unions that Indiana House Democrats have chosen to carry on their tradition of opposing right-to-work by staging a walkout. With right-to-work legislation forcing unions to actually prove their value to members and preventing unions keeping non-union workers out of certain jobs, no wonder the House Democrats have decided to let House Republicans (who hold a legislative majority) penalize them with $1,000-a-day per legislator fines.
Right-to-work reform has been bantered about in the state for several years, and last year a 36-day walkout by House Democrats managed to kill the proposal. This year, the drama picked up afresh with a 3-day walkout by Democrats before the threat of fines brought them back.
In public and private Democrat leader Bauer said that there would be no more walkouts this year, and that the Democrat caucus would show up for work even when the right-to-work bill was on the agenda. That promise was promptly broken when Bauer appeared only briefly and by himself on the House floor Tuesday afternoon without his caucus in tow.
The walkout continued with a pep rally / Democrat caucus meeting in the statehouse rotunda on Wednesday morning. After failing to show up in their seats for the 9:00 am session start, House Republicans slapped them with the long-awaited fine. The absence of a quorum has shuttered legislative business all the way from the chamber to committee hearings.
Democrats, instead of fleeing to Illinois like they did last year, have chosen to remain in the state. In fact, a walk around the state capitol will find a number of them milling about or headed to and from their offices. Due to the modest numbers of union protesters that have showed up each day, the capitol is swarming with state troopers who could, under the rules of the House and the provisions of the Indiana Constitution, be ordered to nab a few Democrats and take them to the House chamber where business could resume.
For now, Democrats are enjoying some expensive leisure time and there is no indication of when they will start doing their job again. Union money is an important part of the Democratic Party's political success, so it's no wonder that Democrats would put their union-underwritten money stream ahead of constituents. It is, however, quite shameful for them to do so.