Transcript: Thom Hartmann: Indiana...The 'Right to Work for Less' State". 24 January '12

The man who is delivering the Republican response to the President's State of the Union address is this guy - Republican Governor from Indiana - Mitch Daniels.

And the thing all Americans should know as they listen to his speech - is that he's a great multi-tasker. Because not only can he give a partisan response to the State of the Union - but he can also wage a war on working people at the same time.

On Monday - the Indiana State Senate passed legislation to turn their state into a so-called "right-to-work" state.

That legislation is expected to pass the State House - and may be signed into law soon by Governor Mitch Daniels.

And from that point on - working people in Indiana are screwed.

So what exactly do "right-to-work" laws mean?

Let's take a look inside a factory - we'll call it Thom's Tractor Company.

There's ten employees who work there.

Now let's say a majority of them - six - decide to form a union.

Under the Wagner Act - also known as the National Labor Relations Act passed in 1935 - they have a right to do just that - they have a majority, they have a union, and just like when I incorporated the tractor company and got certain government protections against liability and tax benefits, the workers who unionize will get certain rights as well, like the right to collectively bargain with me, assuming that it's my tractor factory. I don;t actually have one, anyway.

And once a majority votes to unionize - then in most states all ten workers at Thom's Tractor Company are now part of the union.

All ten workers get the benefits of the union - including better pay pay, better benefits, and better working conditions.

And all ten also have an obligation to pay dues to keep that union functioning - dues, by the way, that these guys - these ten workers - set by voting. They also vote for their leaders that they vote into office. It's a democracy.

And if a worker doesn't want to be a part of the union - if he doesn't want the better pay and benefits - then he has the absolute right to work anywhere else in the world - except in Thom's Tractor Company.

But "Right-to-Work" laws change all that.

Under right-to-work laws - which came into existence in 1947 under the Taft-Hartley Act when it was passed by a Republican House and Senate over the Veto of President Harry Truman - when a majority of workers vote to join a union - and the shop gets unionized - those who don't want to pay union dues, don't have to - even though they get the benefits of all the bargaining and all the other work the union does for them.

So those four employees of Thom's Tractor Company who don't want to pay for the union will still get the better pay and wages - but they don't have to contribute a dime to it.

What happens when that happens?

Well - the union loses - it loses money, it loses people - the workers turn on each other until eventually the union collapses - and then, of course, wages go down, benefits are lost, and working conditions stink again.

This is exactly what's played out in states that have so-called right-to-work laws - or as they should be called: "right-to-work for LESS" laws.

Right now - there are 22 states that have right-to-work-for-less laws - Indiana would become the 23rd state.

And here are the facts about these states - these right to work for less states:

On average, workers in these right-to-work-for-less states make $5,333 a year less than their counterparts in free-bargaining states.

21% more people in the right-to-work-for-less states lack employee covered health insurance in right-to-work-for-less states compared to the free-bargaining states.

Poverty is 2.3 percent higher in right-to-work-for-less states.

And looking at numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics - incidents of workplace deaths and injuries are 51% higher in the right-to-work-for-less states than in states that don't have right-to-work-for-less laws.

So basically - you have a right to work for less, a right to work without healthcare, a right to work in poverty, and a right to work in a dangerous environment thanks to laws like Mitch Daniel will probably be signing later this week that they call "right to work".

And here's what's really troubling - once Indiana passes this law - it'll be the first state in this region - the manufacturing belt - to pass a right-to-work-for-less law.

And this is where unions were born - actually up in Wisconsin as well - it's becoming the place where unions are dying now.

And as a result the middle class is dying.

As Union Membership Rates Decrease, Middle Class Incomes Shrink

Courtesy of Think Progress

As this chart union membership has declined in American - so too has the middle class's share of annual income.

We need to put an end to this war on unions.

Just recently in Wisconsin - we saw the power...

Actually, let me just - this is unionization [red line] and wages [blue line] - notice a correlation?

Just recently in Wisconsin - we saw the power of the labor movement when it fought back against Governor Scott Walker and collected over a million signatures to recall him from office.

We now need that same energy in Indiana - where Governor Mitch Daniels is a rising star in the Republican Party - and we need to turn him into the next Scott Walker.

Unions are - literally - democracies in the workplace - and we have to save them if we want to restore a strong middle class to America.

That's The Big Picture.

How To Bring Back A Middle Class

Thom plus logo From the 1930s to the Reagan Revolution, America grew the largest and most robust middle class in history. Along with strong unions, the main driver of that was that people earning more than about $10 million in today's money confronted a top tax rate of 91% until the 60s, and 67% until Reagan came into office.

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