Indiana Enacts Right-To-Work Legislation: Will The Rest Of The Rust Belt Follow?


On February 1, 2012, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed right-to-work legislation into law. Right-to-work laws prohibit anyone from forcing a person to join or support a union as a condition of employment. That is to say, they protect an individual's fundamentally American "right to work" without being forced to join, or pay any of their earnings, to any group. Right-to-work laws do not in any way prevent people from joining or paying dues to a union if they freely choose to do so.

Indiana is the first state in the so called "Rust Belt," a geographic area historically driven by large-scale manufacturing, to enact such legislation. Right-to-work measures are currently pending in Michigan, Missouri, and New Hampshire. Other Northeastern and Midwestern states have attempted to pass similar legislation, but have not been successful to date. Twenty-three states have enacted right-to-work laws, with Indiana being the first to do so in 12 years.

Unions claim that right-to-work laws depress area wages and benefits, although there is little support for this assertion. But employees in right-to work-states are less attractive to unions as targets for organizing—because they cannot be forced to join or pay money to a union. Consequently, right-to-work advocates argue that enacting such legislation makes a state more attractive to new businesses, which in turn, produces jobs. Should Indiana now see a marked increase in its ability to attract new businesses, neighboring states will be hard pressed to explain to their citizens why they have not enacted similar legislation.

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