Labor Markets in Indiana Reflect ALEC Influence

By: Todd Smekens

Muncie, Indiana BLOG – The Indiana Chamber of Commerce released their annual survey showing their pro-corporate laws – those provided to our state lawmakers by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have worked to perfection. However, deflating wages in Indiana comes with some problems as they’ve discovered over the past several years. Instead of owning the problem or pointing to laws passed over the last decade by ALEC-funded lawmakers, the Chamber blames workers.

According to the press release via The News & Tribune:

A new employer survey from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce shows concerning trends in workforce shortages, tuition reimbursement and response to prescription opiate abuse, according to a news release.

“Too often employers can’t find the workers they need, and those currently employed aren’t taking advantage of tuition reimbursement that would put them in better positions,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

Hoosier lawmakers have worked hard to achieve the Top Five ranking by CEO’s for being “business-friendly.” They collaborated with American Legislative Exchange Council to implement “pro-business” laws like the misnamed, Right-to-Work legislation which takes away much-needed union membership.

They’ve maintained a decades-old minimum wage holding entry-level workers in poverty. Regulations are minimal, taxes are low, and “corporate incentive plans” to invest in Indiana are tops in the nation.

In other words, Indiana has worked extremely hard to make the state a great place for CEO’s, but workers have suffered. If you listen to ‘free-market’ economists like Michael Hicks from Ball State University, he’ll tell you the legislators have created a perfect marketplace for the private sector to operate. He frequently states that workers (labor) have their marketplace.

If there was a “labor market,” it’s failing in Indiana. If the laws of supply and demand were in play, employers could correct this shortage of labor by increasing wages. That’s not happening. Hoosiers’ per capita household incomes have been stuck in the 1990’s. Wages have stagnated while all other living expenses have risen. This dreadful combination of economic forces has forced more and more Hoosiers into poverty.

A recent U.S. analysis shows Hoosier workers aren’t alone:

We (Apartment List) define inclusive growth as positive growth in post-rent wages for all of three categories of workers: blue-collar, knowledge and service.

Nationwide, while wages for knowledge workers, in the engineering, healthcare and management professions, for example, increased significantly, blue-collar wages stagnated and service worker wages actually fell.

When factoring in rent prices, the picture is even starker. Over the past decade, “post-rent wages,” or wages left after deducting median rent costs, decreased for service workers (-7 percent) and blue-collar workers (-5 percent), while only knowledge workers saw an increase (6 percent). The combination of unequal wage growth and rising rents has led to an increase in inequality between blue-collar, knowledge, and service workers in most metros.

If it’s bad in urban settings, guess how those in rural Indiana feel?

You can waste your time reading the whole Chamber of Commerce report, or you can take my word for it…they blame workers not taking advantage of “tuition reimbursement.” Instead of training the private sector about simple laws of demand and supply, the Chamber will focus on educating employers and employees about tuition reimbursement programs put forth by Ivy Tech, and other educational programs. Instead of blaming lawmakers for implementing pro-business policies meant to depress Hoosier workers, they recommend more training.

When an employee sees an opportunity within their company, they properly weigh the cost/benefits of seeking additional education for the position. As the USA worker analysis shows, the Working Class is suffering. Spending time studying at a school or away from family might seem like a great option for the Chamber president, but if the new wage isn’t significantly higher than the personal investment, employees will stay put.

Here’s where the chamber and Mike Hicks get themselves into trouble – no matter how much spin they put on their bullshit, our reality proves them wrong. If the private sector lobbying groups like the Chambers of Commerce and ALEC are investing heavily in pro-corporate policies, then hold them accountable when problems arise. Income inequality didn’t just magically appear – it’s been a steadfast effort to wipe out unions while depressing wages.

The issues aren’t more training or educational reimbursement; the issue is employers can’t find workers willing to invest more of their own time for the low wages offered. If they want to fill these positions, try raising the salaries of the jobs posted. If workers see how their investments will pay off, guess what – they’ll make the investment.

Exacerbating this issue is our media will just print the Chamber’s press release without any analysis, so blaming workers or poor people becomes the norm in our media. The private sector has plenty of propagandists or cheerleaders…advertisers fund their dying newspapers. Why aren’t workers demanding journalists do their jobs? The newspapers and broadcast media won’t hold our government and private sectors accountable because political and corporate advertisers fund them. The truth is the real #FakeNews scandal occurs at our major media outlets and has for decades.


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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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