University: Right to Work South Is Where ‘the People and the Money Are Moving’

At the recent national AFL-CIO convention in St Louis, Mo., Arkansas AFL-CIO chief Alan Hughes “checked off a list of new industrial investments already in the works” in the Right to Work state where he resides. Image: myuswlocal.org

Workday Minnesota, a project of the University of Minnesota’s Labor Education Service, recently highlighted employees in Right to Work Arkansas “preparing for a possible avalanche of [job-creating] investment headed their way.”

In Pine Bluff, a mostly African-American town in south-central Arkansas, America’s first-ever natural gas liquefaction plant, a $3.5-billion-dollar alternative energy super project, will be built over the next several years. It is being billed as the biggest economic development endeavor in state history. Only six of the operations exist in the world, and Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes estimates the Pine Bluff plant could create as many as 5,000 construction jobs up front, and around 500 permanent jobs after that.

Similar stories are playing out in other towns, too. A Chinese company, Sun Paper, chose Arkadelphia for its first U.S. investment, of more than $1 billion into a new pulp mill. In Forrest City, another Chinese giant, the Shandong Ruyi Technology Group, announced plans to spend $410 million to convert an old Sanyo TV factory into a new spinning yarn mill big enough to consume all the annual cotton harvest of the Arkansas Delta region. Another 800 permanent jobs. None of them union.

Those are the projects announced in just one state over the past year or so. But it’s happening all over the South. Jessica Akers, secretary-treasurer of the Arkansas AFL-CIO, says unions must get ready now.

Principled Americans opposed to compulsory unionism schemes recognize employees’ economic benefits derived from their Right to Work protections.  They are likely not surprised by the Arkansas successes.  But they may well be surprised to learn the source of this Southern Right To Work State’s praise is based largely on Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes’ presentation at last month’s national AFL-CIO convention in St. Louis, Mo.

Hughes encouraged his fellow union officials to come up with a new “long-term” plan to unionize employees in the 14 southern Right to Work states, because they are, in Workday Minnesota contributor C.J. Atkins’ words, “where the people and the money are moving.”

Ivory tower compulsory unionism advocates like to downplay Right to Work laws’ impact on business investment decisions. However, union officials like Hughes evidently live in the real world.

The manifest economic success of voluntary-unionism in the South and across the U.S. is one reason why Right to Work, as Arkansas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Jessica Akers admits, “isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”

Labor still lacks coordinated approach to organizing the South …