The vice presidential debate is tonight. When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was selected as Donald Trump’s running mate in July, IBEW leaders in the Hoosier State discussed Pence’s failure to support working families there, where he has served as governor since 2013. Here is what they said:

IBEW members in Indiana are pleased they won’t have Gov. Mike Pence around much longer, but they added that Donald Trump choosing Pence as his running mate shows just how little the Republican presidential nominee appreciates challenges faced by working families.

Pence faced a difficult re-election fight against Democratic nominee John Gregg before withdrawing from that race. Signs like this are common around Indianapolis.

“He’s pathetic,” Gary and Hammond, Ind., Local 697 member Mike Daugherty said of Pence. “He’s horrible as a governor.”

Trump announced on July 15 that Pence, a former congressman who had been running for a second term as Indiana’s governor, would be his running mate. Pence got national attention and was heavily criticized during his gubernatorial tenure by Hoosiers from across the political spectrum for his focus on social issues, but he also was no friend of working families.

“He’s been part of a group that brought right-to-work to Indiana,” said Daugherty, the state political director. “He’s rescinded prevailing wage laws in Indiana that opened up state construction projects for out-of-state contractors. That’s hurt IBEW members.”

Daugherty said Pence’s lack of respect for labor was demonstrated by the fact he wouldn’t even meet with state union leaders.

“Considering he is the governor of Indiana, you would think he would go through the motions,” he said.

Mitch Daniels, Pence’s predecessor, signed right-to-work legislation into law in 2012, but Pence made it clear during his campaign later that year and as governor that he supported it. 

Once elected, and with the aid of large Republican majorities in the state House and Senate, Pence signed a repeal of Indiana’s common wage laws, which are similar to prevailing wage laws in most states. Prevailing wage laws require contractors doing business with governmental bodies to pay their workers at pre-determined levels.

The Indiana laws had covered most public works projects in the state exceeding $350,000 and had been in effect since 1935. Indianapolis Local 481 Business Manager Steve Menser said there had been no major attempts to overturn them until Pence was elected.

Menser said the repeal measure was primarily drawn up by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of conservative legislators and private industry representatives that writes model legislation for governing bodies across the country.

“This [Pence’s selection] pretty much reinforces everything I’ve told our members about Trump,” Menser said. “He’s not a friend of labor.”

Sixth District Vice President David J. Ruhmkorff, who previously served as Local 481’s business manager, said Pence’s actions show a “meanness” toward everyone who didn’t agree with him.

“He stands for nothing that we stand for,” Ruhmkorff said. “He says he’s for the family, but he takes away our common construction wage, which allows construction workers to earn a decent living on public projects.”

In one way, Indiana IBEW leaders are sorry to see Pence on a national ticket. They are convinced he would have lost to Democratic nominee John Gregg in November’s gubernatorial election.

Gregg, a former speaker of the Indiana House, narrowly lost to Pence in 2012 and has the backing of every major labor organization. Indiana law prohibits Pence from running for both governor and vice president and he withdrew his gubernatorial candidacy.

“We’re so glad he’s out of here,” Daugherty said. “But we’re kind of sad because I think John Gregg was going to beat him handily.”

Before being elected governor, Pence was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years, representing an overwhelmingly Republican district that stretches east and southeast of Indianapolis. He received a lifetime score of 5 percent from the AFL-CIO as a member of Congress.

Pence didn’t sponsor a single piece of legislation during his time in Washington, D.C., that was passed and signed into law. Long a favorite of the tea party movement, he once was a conservative talk show host in Indiana. He had never served in an executive position before becoming governor and Ruhmkorff said that was painfully obvious in the way he governed.

“He left Congress to become governor of Indiana because he saw it as a steppingstone to be being President,” Ruhmkorff said. “He had no interest in the people of Indiana.”

Trump’s selection of Pence always was criticized by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“Everything Donald Trump does proves that he does not stand with working families,” Trumka said. “Mike Pence might be the right choice for Donald Trump, but he’s the wrong choice for America.

“We need leaders who will bring us together, not tear us apart. Mike Pence once again proves Donald Trump’s true priority [is] assaulting the rights of working people and helping corporate CEOs line their pockets.”

Brett Voorhies, president of the Indiana AFL-CIO, said Pence is “running away from the people of Indiana and into the arms of Donald Trump, and the pair could not be more perfect for each other.”

“Trump and Pence are both driven by a divisive political agenda that focuses more on ideologies than actual, practical solutions to the issues plaguing working people,” said Voorhies, a member of the steelworkers’ union. “Governor Pence has failed Hoosiers, so it’s no wonder he’s made such a desperate attempt to escape the governor’s race.”

Homepage photo used under a Flickr/Creative Commons licensing agreement by Gage Skidmore.