Bargaining, Contributions an Issue in Indiana

Published October 8, 2008

A labor union with a large public-sector membership is pledging to spend any amount necessary to elect in Indiana a Democrat governor who will restore collective-bargaining powers that have been rolled back by incumbent Mitch Daniels (R).

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) already has donated $900,000 to the campaign of Jill Long Thompson, Democratic candidate for governor in the state. When asked how much money SEIU is prepared to contribute to her candidacy, Illinois-Indiana SEIU Executive Director Jerry Morrison pledged “whatever it takes,” adding there will be “no shortage of resources.”

Daniels’ campaign manager, Eric Holcomb, responded by labeling SEIU’s contributions to Thompson a “corrupt bargain.” Holcomb told Brian Howey, a columnist for the Evening News and Tribune, he believes Thompson “sold her campaign to the highest out-of-state bidder in return for millions of dollars of future public employee dues.”

Public-employee bargaining in Indiana began with two executive orders by then-Gov. Evan Bayh (D) in 1992. One order allowed for bargaining, and the other recognized the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and United Auto Workers (UAW) as the two major unions to represent state employees.

Each successive governor (both of whom were Democrats like Bayh) extended the orders. Daniels, however, did not.

While SEIU is strongly supporting Thompson, UAW and AFL-CIO, an AFSCME affiliate, have not endorsed her.

Although Thompson has indicated she would reinstate collective bargaining, she has refused to say whether she would officially reinstate AFSCME and UAW to their previous status as exclusive bargaining representatives. If it were to become policy, this refusal would provide SEIU with an opportunity to mount a future drive to get state employees to join its union.

Daniels, meanwhile, has received support from firefighter and police unions.

Scott Dilley ([email protected]) is a labor policy analyst at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington.