Anti-Right to Work Rants Aren’t Smart, Politically or Economically

This year, the union political machine and Democratic Party honchos have invested heavily in Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ ongoing bid to unseat pro-Right to Work U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R).  As the chamber’s minority leader, McConnell will likely take over as majority leader if he is reelected and the GOP picks up, as many political observers are now predicting will happen, six or more seats in Senate races across the country next month.

Thanks largely to Big Labor and its massive forced union dues-funded political war chest, Lundergan Grimes has made it a close race.  But she still trails, albeit by a small margin, in the vast majority of polls.

Veteran Washington Post reporter/pundit Dana Milbank, who regards pro-Right to Work elected officials such as McConnell with barely concealed contempt, thinks he has figured out why the Democratic challenger hasn’t taken the lead in the Kentucky Senate race.  In a recent blog item for his newspaper (see the link below), Milbank suggested that Lundergan Grimes’ problem is that, up to now, she hasn’t been sufficiently outspoken about her opposition to Right to Work laws now on the books in 24 states and pending national Right to Work legislation.

In his October 22 commentary, Milbank applauded Lundergan Grimes for virulently attacking Right to Work measures, which simply protect the individual employee’s freedom to get and hold a job without being forced to join or bankroll an unwanted union, at a Bowling Green press conference the week before.  Milbank apparently is under the impression that unabashed advocacy for compulsory unionism was a new strategy for Lundergan Grimes.  In his commentary, he lamented the fact that she had not been publicly emphasizing her opposition to personal decision-making about unionism throughout the campaign.

Unfortunately for Milbank, his commentary was fundamentally incorrect on two counts.  Ever since she emerged as Big Labor’s handpicked challenger to McConnell in 2013, Lundergan Grimes has been denouncing Right to Work laws.  This strategy is not remotely a new factor in the campaign.  Moreover, knowledgeable political observers of all stripes recognize it is a foolish strategy for  tor the challenger to adopt, rather than a savvy one, as Milbank supposes.

For one thing, just two months ago, a pre-Labor Day poll of registered voters taken by Survey USA and sponsored by the Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV in Lexington and the Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV in Louisville found that, by an overwhelming two-to-one margin, Kentuckians agree that “laws should be changed to allow people to work in businesses that have unions without joining the union or paying union dues.”

And long experience shows that support for Right to Work isn’t merely an intellectual proposition for Kentucky citizens.  Time and again, it has been a cutting issue that helps candidates who oppose forced unionism, and hurts those who support it.  For example, it’s an issue that helped junior U.S. Sen. Rand Paul both in his primary and in his general-election campaigns when he first ran for the seat he now holds in 2010.

In addition to being unpopular, Lundergan Grimes’ claims that voluntary unionism is somehow harmful to employees are economically nonsensical.  The fact is, a wide array of federal data indicate Right to Work laws are good for employees’ pocketbooks.  For example, inflation-adjusted U.S. Commerce Department data show that, from 2003 to 2013, private-sector employee compensation in the 22 states that had Right to Work laws on the books for the whole period grew by a healthy 15.1%.  That’s nearly double the 8.2% increase for forced-unionism states in the aggregate and more than six times as great as Kentucky’s feeble 2.3% gain.

As far as well-wishers of Lundergan Grimes’ Senate campaign are concerned, the Right to Work issue is the last thing she should be talking about now.  On the other hand, her detractors should hope she takes Milbank’s advice and keeps harping about how public policy ought to corral employees into unions until Election Day rolls around November 4.


Union bosses and their clique of militant followers, along with their journalistic cheerleaders, love it when Big Labor Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes attacks Right to Work laws. But a recent poll shows Bluegrass State residents support such laws by a two-to-one margin. Image: AP photo

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