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Published Jan. 25, 2012

New York Times

With Republican-controlled Indiana on the verge of becoming a "right to work" state, Democrats in the state House on Tuesday took the only step they have left to prevent it, if only for a bit longer. They disappeared. Again.

A final vote on the measure, which would bar union contracts from requiring nonunion members to pay fees for representation, had been expected on Tuesday in the House, which Republicans dominate, 60-40. But with scores of union members and supporters filling the Statehouse halls in Indianapolis in protest, most Democrats refused to turn up for floor sessions - not once but twice on Tuesday afternoon.

The absences meant Republicans did not have enough members on the floor to do business; 67 representatives are required.

Republicans say the "right to work" legislation would allow workers who do not wish to support unions not to be forced to and would entice new businesses to move to Indiana, which would be the first state in more than a decade to approve such a provision. Democrats say the measure, more common in states outside the traditional Midwestern manufacturing belt, would weaken unions and lead to lower pay and benefits for workers.

"We don't have enough votes to govern the chamber, but we have enough votes to govern the timetable of what work is done," said Rep. Scott Pelath, who like each of the other absent Democrats is facing $4,000 in fines - and the threat of more fines for each day of absence.