Indiana's House Democratic Leader told the Associated Press Wednesday that Democrats are prepared to take a final vote on a measure that would make Indiana the first right-to-work state in the traditionally union-heavy Rust Belt.
"We did better than anybody ever expected," said House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, adding that outnumbered Democrats fought the best they could in the divisive labor battle that would make Indiana the 23rd right-to-work state.
Indiana would mark the first win in 10 years for national right-to-work advocates who have pushed unsuccessfully for the measure in other states following a Republican sweep of statehouses in 2010.
But Republicans have struggled with similar anti-union measures in other Rust-Belt states like Wisconsin and Ohio where they have faced a massive backlash. Ohio voters overturned Gov. John Kasich's labor measures last November and union activists delivered roughly 1 million petitions last week in an effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Indiana's House of Representatives opened a contentious final debate on the measure Wednesday afternoon. Democrats opened the doors to the House chamber at the start of the debate and union chants of "No right-to-work!" drowned out much of the early debate.
Republican Rep. Jerry Torr, a longtime sponsor of the right-to-work measure, argued that the bill would not bust unions or depress wages as opponents have argued.
Most House Democrats have been staying away since the start of the 2012 session, denying Republicans a quorum to vote on plans to make Indiana the 23rd state that bans unions from collecting mandatory representation fees.
Republicans have levied $4,000 in fines against each of the boycotting Democrats thus far, although an ongoing legal challenge has blocked them from collecting those penalties.
By boycotting eight out of the 14 days the House has met this year, Democrats have also created a backlog of other priorities, such as a proposed statewide smoking ban and a plan to crack down on human sex-trafficking before the Super Bowl kicks off in Indianapolis Feb. 5.