The danger contained in those three simple words -- "right to work" -- is that they sound so innocent.
Who could be against having the right to work?
But there is nothing simple or innocent about a proposal with a documented history of cutting pay for workers, reducing the benefits they earn to support their families and reducing safety in the places where they work.
There is a very good reason it is called "right to work for less."
Right to work for less says: If you work at a place with union representation, you can reap the benefits that come from collective bargaining -- salaries, health care -- but refuse to pay your share of the costs of negotiating those benefits.
Does this sound fair to you? I don't think so.
So if union shops are the only places affected, then how does the preservation of bargaining rights in Indiana keep any businesses from coming to our state?
During last summer's hearings on right to work, not one shred of evidence was presented that proved any business refused to come to Indiana because we allow workers and businesses the freedom to collectively bargain.
By contrast, here are some easily verifiable facts:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker in a right-to-work-for-less state makes substantially less than a worker in a non-RTW state. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, right-to-work-for-less states have a higher poverty level. Workplace deaths are more than 50 percent higher in right-to-work-for-less states, while workers injured on the job in those states receive lesser benefits.
Let's look at the experiences of just two of the 22 right-to-work-for-less states in this country.
Mississippi, which passed right-to-work-for-less in 1954, consistently has ranked dead last in the nation in its ability to attract jobs. Their workers earn less than 80 cents on the dollar compared to the average U.S. worker.
Since Oklahoma passed right-to-work-for-less in 2001, manufacturing jobs have disappeared. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce reported the state is attracting 33 percent fewer firms and jobs. Instead of losing jobs to competing states, Oklahoma jobs are going overseas, where no state can compete with the low wages offered in foreign countries.
Indiana already ranks in the top tier in the assets it provides to attract jobs. In the current economy, why would the Republican majorities at the Statehouse want to risk enacting a policy that could easily throw us back into the depths of recession? Furthermore, why would these majorities be so steadfast in their pursuit of a policy opposed by Hoosiers, according to a recent poll?
Because there is only one group that benefits from right-to-work-for-less: Big business. It reduces the costs of paying salaries and benefits to their workers, which increases their profits.
Hoosier workers already earn only 86 cents on the dollar, compared to other workers across this country. Bringing right-to-work-for-less to Indiana will be just another step on our race to the bottom.
Indiana Rep. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, is the ranking Democrat on the House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee. He represents the 7th District. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.