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Expert Says Repeal Of Common Construction Wage Signals Further Decline Of Unions

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The repeal of the common construction wage marks the second major legislative defeat for Indiana unions in three years.

Twenty years ago, organized labor stopped a prevailing wage repeal in its tracks with a show of force at the statehouse.

Labor specialist Ken Dau-Schmidt at IU‘s Maurer School of Law says the success of repeal this year shows the decline of labor influence.

He says the loss of clout began with the loss of manufacturing jobs as technological advances made it easier to move some tasks overseas.

"Those manufacturing jobs that can be shipped to China were going to be shipped anyway," says Dau-Schmidt. "But what's happened now is that we've lost those and those were the bedrock of the American labor movement. And labor unions are weak enough now that, politically, they are getting pushed around."

He says the decline of unions was accelerated further by the state’s 2012 passage of right-to-work legislation. 

Dau-Schmidt says the best hope for unions to regain membership is by making inroads at the extremes of the pay scale: low-wage service jobs and high-skill, high-wage jobs.

But he says the future may lie less in collective bargaining than through public pressure to raise wages and benefits, as with national protests against McDonald‘s and Wal-Mart.

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