By Susan Guyett
INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Republicans lawmakers were expected to give a final push this week to legislation that would make Indiana the first right-to-work state in the nation's manufacturing belt, dealing a setback to organized labor in a presidential election year.
The measure, already given preliminary approval by both chambers of the Indiana legislature, would allow workers to opt out of paying union dues, even when a workplace is unionized.
Supporters of right-to-work, led by Indiana's Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, say it is needed to bring business and jobs to the state. Opponents call it "union busting" and say it will hurt workers with lower wages.
A committee of the state Senate was due to consider the measure on Monday and the full Senate was expected to give it final approval on Wednesday, sending it on to Daniels for his signature.
Daniels, who considered running for president last year and gave the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union message last Tuesday, has made passage of right-to-work one of his priorities for this year.
Indiana would join 22 other states with right-to-work laws, most of them in the South and West. Indiana's action has stirred a national debate because no state has approved right-to-work legislation since Oklahoma a decade ago. Unions fear other states will be encouraged to pass similar laws.
Opponents in the state Senate and House of Representatives filed a series of amendments to limit the scope of the legislation, including letting voters decide on right to work via referendum. The amendments were rejected in both chambers, which have Republican majorities.
Organized labor could be a significant issue during the 2012 election year. In addition to the Indiana action, Democrats and unions are hoping to recall Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker after he championed a new law that severely restricted collective bargaining powers of public sector unions in the state.
(Editing by Greg McCune)