Few states enacted more legislation in recent years that harmed working families than Indiana. Voters there have a chance to push back against that on Election Day.
|John Gregg, former Indiana House Speaker and Democratic nominee for governor.
The IBEW and its allies are working for the election of John
Gregg as the state’s governor and for Evan Bayh’s return to the Senate. There’s
reason for optimism. A
conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute
released last week
showed Gregg with a 12-point lead over Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb; and Bayh, a
former Indiana governor and senator, with a 6-point lead over Rep. Todd Young.
But state political director Mike Daugherty is quick to remind
that Indiana is a conservative state. Republicans have controlled the
governorship for the last 12 years and currently have supermajorities in both
the state House and Senate. Barack Obama in 2008 is the only Democratic
presidential nominee to win the state since 1964.
In short, it’s not time to relax.
“Anytime we have a little bit of a lead in the polls, it’s
good because this is Indiana,” said Daugherty, a member of Gary and Hammond,
Ind., Local 697. “I think a lot of the state is turned off by [Republican
presidential nominee] Donald Trump’s antics and I think that will help us as
Trump once had a double-digit lead in the state, but
led Hillary Clinton just 45-41 percent in the same Monmouth poll.
Indianapolis Local 481 Business Manager Steve Menser notes
its members have been active in the state AFL-CIO’s program for volunteers to canvass
for worker-friendly candidates every other Saturday until the election on Nov.
Local 481 hosted the Indianapolis-area event on Oct. 8 and
volunteers knocked on about 1,100 doors during the day, he said. Statewide, volunteers
knocked on about 11,000 doors, according to the state AFL-CIO.
“Those numbers are kind of telling about the energy level we
have for this election,” Menser said.
Indiana passed a right-to-work law and it was signed into
law by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2012. Mike Pence, who succeeded Daniels and
now is the Republican vice presidential nominee
has made it clear he supported the move.
|Former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, who is running for his old seat. Bayh also served two terms as Indiana’s governor. Photo provided by Lisa under a Flickr/Creative Commons agreement.
later signed a repeal of the Indiana common wage laws
, similar to
prevailing wage laws in most states. The laws had been in effect since 1935.
Gregg, a longtime friend of working families, narrowly lost
to Pence in 2012. The two were headed for another showdown until Pence accepted
Trump’s offer to be his running mate. State laws prohibit a candidate from
running for two offices at some time, forcing him to withdraw from the
A Gregg victory wouldn’t reverse right-to-work or the repeal
of the common wage laws immediately. The GOP almost assuredly still will have
large majorities in the state House and Senate. But Menser said Gregg will
appoint more labor-friendly officials to state agencies and also give unions
and working families a needed morale boost.
He also noted that Holcomb seldom mentions Pence, who
remains unpopular in the state
, but has said that he supports many of the
“As long as John Gregg just stays on message about raising
wages for Indiana workers and the outsourcing of jobs and trying to keep those
jobs in Indiana, I think he’ll be fine,” Menser said.
Pence was criticized for focusing too much on social issues while
Indiana’s wage growth during the last four years has been below the national
“Holcomb has been kind of a Pence clone,” Menser said.
“Everyone is tired of this social divide and these issues being part of the
state legislature. They want to hear about ways to raise the pay of Indiana
workers. Gregg has been very consistent in that message.”
In the Senate race, Bayh appears to have withstood millions
of dollars in attack ads coordinated by special interests from outside the
state. Many centered around the theme he didn’t live in Indiana full-time after
leaving the Senate in 2010 and was no longer in touch with the state’s citizens.
But when it comes to supporting working families, Bayh is
much like his father, former Indiana senator and progressive icon Birch Bayh. He
a 92 percent score from the AFL-CIO
when he served in the Senate from
1999-2011. Young, on the other hand, has a score of
9 percent during his nearly six years in the House.
“This influence of ads paid for by people from outside
Indiana trying to tag [Bayh] as an establishment-type senator and not one in
touch with working Hoosiers is not working,” Daugherty said. “With our
membership, I think he has pretty strong favorables.”
Added Menser: “Todd Young plays tea party politics. I am
trying to impress that on my membership, but honestly, that’s not a tough sell.
Our members are going to vote for Evan Bayh.”
Trump is still considered the favorite on the presidential
level in Indiana, even though Clinton has closed the gap. Daugherty and Menser
say they continue to reach out to voters who support Trump, reminding them
there are equally important races down the ballot. Daugherty said IBEW members
in his area – which is in northern Indiana near Chicago – are working with the
Service Employees International Union to get out the vote.
“It’s just going to be about voter turnout,” Menser said.
“Obviously, this state leans a little more red. I think if a lot of Trump
supporters come out, there’s a chance for more straight-ticket voting and that
scares me a little bit. But if we get our members out, I think we’ll be fine. A
lot of organized labor is fired up.”
Homepage photo credit: Photo courtesy of the Gregg for Indiana campaign.