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Indiana senate committee advances right-to-work bill

By Susan Guyett

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - An Indiana Senate committee sent to the full Senate a right-to-work bill that opponents view as an assault on unions, while Democrats in the state House of Representatives worked to block the measure on Friday.

Absent Democrats in the lower house denied a quorum for a third straight day to stop the Republican-backed legislation. Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma failed to bring the House to order when only 64 members showed up, three short of a quorum.

Under the proposed right-to-work law, employees at unionized private workplaces would not be required to pay union dues. Supporters say the move would attract jobs to Indiana. Critics call it union-busting.

Last year, House Democrats fled the state to neighboring Illinois to avoid voting on a similar right-to-work bill and other legislation they viewed as anti-labor and anti-public education. The bill died, and other bills were altered.

If the right-to-work proposal is approved, Indiana would be the first state in the industrial heartland of the United States to adopt such a law. It is in force in 22 other states, mostly in the South and West.

House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer said the three days most of his caucus stayed away gave opponents of the right-to-work bill time to be heard. Three informational sessions were scheduled in Fort Wayne, Gary and Evansville over the weekend.

Boycotting the legislative session for any length of time doesn't seem to be an option.

"We know we can't stay out indefinitely," Bauer said.

Some Democrats have been absent long enough for fines of up to $1,000 a day to be levied, but Bosma, the Republican House speaker, declined to set a timetable imposing fines.

Bosma said the Republicans would "continue to be present and do our work and hope common sense prevails."

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Daniel Trotta)