Back to the Future: Union Survival Strategies in Open Shop America

When the history of mid-western de-unionization is written, its sad chroniclers will begin their story in Indiana. That is where Governor Mitch Daniels paved the way, in 2005, for copycat attacks on public-sector bargaining in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan — and for a successful assault on private sector union security in his own state earlier this year.

A right-wing Republican, Daniels was elected in 2004. Immediately after taking office, he began cutting state agency jobs and, via executive order, revoked state-employee bargaining rights granted by his Democratic predecessor, Evan Bayh. Over the next six years, state government employment dropped from 35,000 to 28,700. In 2005, 16,408 state workers were paying union dues; by 2011, only 1,490 still belonged to labor organizations now deprived of dues check-off.1