A group opposed to mandatory union membership is hailing the passage of a bill that makes Indiana the first right-to-work state in the upper Midwest.

“No American should be forced to join a labor union just to keep a job, and no resident of Indiana should be required to pay dues to an organization he or she does not believe in,” said 2012 Associated Builders and Contractors national Chairman Eric Regelin, president of Granix LLC in Ellicott City, Md. “The new right-to-work law will allow workers to freely decide whether to join a union.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill Wednesday, hours after its approval by the state Senate. Indiana is the 23rd state to enact a right-to-work law, which bans union membership or the payment of dues as a condition of employment, and the first one in a decade. Also significant is that Indiana is part of the so-called Rust Belt - once-prosperous Midwest states such as Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin that have suffered population and job losses as residents fled to warmer climates. Most have a long history of unionized workers involved in heavy manufacturing.

Regelin said he hopes other states follow Indiana’s lead.

“Right-to-work legislation has been introduced in 13 other states,” he said. “This suggests that state lawmakers, strapped with massive budget deficits, falling revenues and stagnant economic growth, are considering right-to-work laws to lure new businesses into their states and help turn their economies around.”

Experts, however, say the benefits of such laws on job growth are not clear, and passage of similar laws in nearby states anytime soon is unlikely heading to an election year.