Right to Work Legislation Proliferates Across The Land
(Source: February 2015 National Right To Work Committee Newsletter)
In 2015, union officials and their forced-dues-funded political machine continue to wield enormous clout in state capitals across the country. But the fear Big Labor inspires is not as great as it was just a few short years ago.
The reason isn’t hard to see.
For decades, the Great Lakes region of the U.S., encompassing six Midwestern states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio) plus Pennsylvania and New York, was widely regarded as an impregnable forced-unionism stronghold.
But since 2011, three Great Lakes states — Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan — have adopted and implemented major labor-policy reforms rolling back union bosses’ monopoly privileges.
In the Badger State, legislators passed and GOP Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a measure, known as Act 10, repealing government union bosses’ statutory power to collect forced union dues.
Other Act 10 provisions greatly narrowed the scope of government union bosses’ monopoly-bargaining privileges. (Unfortunately, the law exempts public-safety union officials.)
Indiana and Michigan approved, respectively, the 23rd and 24th state Right to Work laws, prohibiting the exaction of compulsory union dues or fees as a job condition from employees who prefer not to join the union.
If Michigan and Indiana Can Do It, ‘There’s No Reason We Can’t Do It Here, Too’
In Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan, national union bosses like AFL-CIO czar Richard Trumka and their operatives vowed to get revenge on the elected officials who had dared to curtail their special privileges.
But the net result of the various special “recall” elections union bosses engineered in Wisconsin to punish Gov. Walker and his legislative allies and the regularly scheduled elections of 2012 and 2014 has been resounding voter commendation for the politicians who stood up to Big Labor.
Executive-branch officials targeted by the union machine have been reelected by decisive margins. Pro-Right to Work legislative majorities have expanded. In Michigan, not a single legislator who had voted for Right to Work just after the 2012 elections was defeated in 2014!
State politicians in Indiana and Michigan were able to vote successfully for Right to Work and not only live to tell about it, but actually flourish in the wake of the battle. And this has definitely caught the attention of politicians in a number of other states where forced union dues are still permitted.
“In more and more of the 26 remaining forced-unionism states this year, elected officials as well as citizen activists are saying, if Indiana and Michigan can pass Right to Work laws, there’s no reason we can’t do it here, too,” commented Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee.
The State of the State Address delivered by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) on January 20 is representative of a new attitude among many state elected officials who may have always supported Right to Work in principle, but were previously reluctant to make it part of their agenda.
Susana Martinez: ‘This Isn’t a Complicated Concept, And Most People Agree’
Just a few minutes into her speech, Ms. Martinez called a state Right to Work law a “common-sense measure” that “we can enact this year” and will “make New Mexico a more attractive place to do business.”
She continued: “I firmly believe that every person should be allowed to choose for themselves whether they want to join a union or contribute to one.
“This isn’t a complicated concept, and most people agree. If a worker wants to join a union, then they will. But it is fundamentally wrong to take money from the paychecks of our workers in order to get a job. For these workers, this is gas money, rent, or a car payment.
“And studies have shown that states where workers are allowed to make this choice for themselves have higher employment levels, and companies locate there more often.
“It’s time we protect the paychecks of New Mexico workers. It’s common sense, and it is long overdue.”
New Mexico, Missouri and New Hampshire Await Right To Work Showdowns
Grass-roots Right to Work supporters in the Land of Enchantment are cautiously optimistic about securing a recorded floor vote on legislation banning forced union dues this year, in part because of the governor’s forthright public support.
A second and related factor making a roll-call vote a strong possibility is that, among the 13 legislative races targeted in New Mexico’s Right to Work candidate survey program last year, candidates pledging 100% opposition to compulsory unionism emerged victorious in 12.
Two other states where freedom-loving citizens are very hopeful about putting their elected officials on the record on the Right to Work issue in 2015 are Missouri and New Hampshire.
Last year, activists successfully lobbied for Right to Work votes in the Missouri House and the New Hampshire Senate. While neither measure passed, the votes enabled workplace freedom advocates to hold a number of politicians who had voted “no” accountable in 2014.
In the Show Me State, for example, seven state representatives who had voted against Right to Work were defeated in the November elections, but every representative voting “yes” was reelected. Moreover, Rep. John Diehl (R-Town and Country), who as majority leader brought up Right to Work for a vote in 2014, was elected speaker early this year.
Other states where debates and roll-call votes on Right to Work measures are possible this year include West Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Montana, Delaware and Maine.
With compulsory-unionism apologists on the defensive in state after state, pro-Right to Work Americans have a lot to be pleased about in 2015. But they must also remain vigilant to avoid pitfalls.
‘Carve Outs’ Send Discordant Message to Pro-Right to Work Citizens
Last month, self-avowedly pro-Right to Work state Senate leaders in Kentucky fell into one such trap when the chamber voted to approve a Right to Work Bill (S.B.1) including a “carve out” provision.
This “carve out” explicitly states that government employers “dealing with public safety” will continue to be able to cut deals with union kingpins to force employees to pay union dues or fees, or be fired.
Grass-roots Right to Work champions fear that, in practice, since virtually all public employers have a police department or a sheriff’s office, this “carve out” could potentially keep virtually all public employees subject to forced unionism.
But even if it turns out that, as interpreted by the courts, the law leaves only public-safety employees under union bosses’ forced-dues control, it will send a discordant message to ordinary citizens who support Right to Work.
Inconsistently Applied Laws Are Vulnerable To Court Challenges
And unfortunately, one of the four Right to Work measures that have so far been introduced in New Mexico explicitly “carves out” all public-sector employees.
“Gov. Martinez was absolutely correct in her State of the State Address when she declared that it is ‘fundamentally wrong to . . . take money from the paychecks of workers in order to get a job,’” said Mr. Mix.
“But the message sent by S.B.92, a so-called ‘Right to Work’ Bill, is that it’s only wrong when the worker is employed in the private sector.”
Besides bespeaking a lack of commitment to principle on the part of the politicians who support them, Mr. Mix added, Right to Work measures including “carve outs” are, like all inconsistently applied laws, potentially vulnerable to court challenges.