Monday, December 26, 2011

Poll finds most undecided on right-to-work (By Dan Carden)

INDIANAPOLIS | The only independent public opinion poll to ask Hoosiers about the right-to-work issue found most have no opinion on the proposed labor policy that is set to dominate the upcoming session of the Indiana General Assembly.

The nonpartisan Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University in Muncie surveyed 607 randomly selected Hoosiers via cellular and landline telephones last month about right-to-work and other political topics.

Prior to asking each respondent for his or her opinion about right-to-work, Bowen Center callers explained that a right-to-work law would make it illegal for labor unions to collect dues from employees who choose not to join the union.

The questioners also told respondents that some people believe a right-to-work law will bring more jobs to the state, and other people say right-to-work lowers wages for all workers and doesn't reduce unemployment.

Even after being informed of both sides of the issue, 47.8 percent of respondents said they don't have an opinion on right-to-work.

Among respondents with an opinion, 26.9 percent said they support right-to-work, and 23.6 percent said they oppose right-to-work.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Raymond Scheele, co-director of the Bowen Center, said the results show there is no consensus among Hoosiers on right-to-work.

"Clearly neither side on this issue has closed the deal," Scheele said. "This is not a settled issue in Indiana."

The Bowen Center results differ from polls conducted for the House Republican Campaign Committee run by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, who supports right-to-work, and the Indiana AFL-CIO, which opposes it.

The House Republicans' poll found 65 percThent support a right-to-work law and 28 percent oppose it.

But that poll incorrectly defined right-to-work as a law that ensures "a worker cannot be required to join a labor union or pay labor union dues in order to get or keep a job." Since 1947, federal law has prohibited mandatory union membership as a job condition and no American worker can be required to pay union dues.

The AFL-CIO poll found 47 percent of Hoosiers oppose right-to-work when they are told the proposed labor policy change will reduce union membership in Indiana, as it has in other right-to-work states. Only 38 percent said they support right-to-work with that outcome.

Scheele said if either of those polls was accurate Bosma wouldn't be spending his campaign funds to appear in TV commercials in several areas of the state urging Hoosiers to support right-to-work.

"If there was not an undecided block, we wouldn't see the TV ads," Scheele said.

Bosma and Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, have declared right-to-work their top priority for the Legislature, which begins its 2012 session Jan. 4. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels also supports a right-to-work law for Indiana.

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