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Latest News - April 2011

April 25, 2011
Show Me the Jobs
Losing economically to its neighbors, Missouri debates right-to-work reform.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Big Labor's attempt to end run Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's union reforms failed last month, but a rematch is brewing down the road to Missouri, where a bill would give workers the choice of whether to join a union. Prepare for more days of rage.

Right-to-work laws make union membership and dues voluntary for all workers, and they are thus the bete noire of labor unions, which see them as a threat to their political clout. At a rally last Tuesday, Teamsters General President James Hoffa told Missourians there is "a war on workers going on throughout the country," adding, "This is not about workers' rights. It's about getting rid of unions."

No, it's about giving workers the right to choose, which is why Mr. Hoffa is putting the squeeze on Missouri Democrats. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that members of the Wisconsin senate Democratic caucus, which fled to Illinois to prevent a vote on Governor Walker's union reforms, will be the featured speakers at the Missouri Democratic Party's annual fundraiser in June.

Twenty two states already have right-to-work laws and they've tended to outperform the others economically, a fact that has states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Maine and New Hampshire working on their own reforms. In Missouri, state senate President pro-tem Rob Mayer has pushed right to work to improve the state's business climate. Since January 2009, the Show Me State has been in a jobs slump, losing some 90,000 jobs last year. Despite gains last month, the state unemployment rate of 9.1% still lingers above the national average of 8.8%.

It doesn't help that Missouri is surrounded by right-to-work states, leaving many businesses the option of setting up shop across the border. Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee all have right-to-work laws, and most have unemployment rates significantly lower than Missouri's. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while Missouri's 0.6% decrease in employment made it the third worst state in the country for job loss for 2010, neighboring Kansas was among the 10 best, with a 6.8% rate.

Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat who spoke to the Teamsters on Tuesday, has said he intends to veto the legislation. While Republicans have a theoretically veto-proof majority in the senate, local unions are doing their best to pick off a few Republicans with a history of labor ties. Targets include Senators Tom Dempsey, Kevin Engler, Mike Kehoe, David Pearce and Eric Schmitt, all of whom have received campaign contributions or endorsements from unions or union affiliated groups.

Unions claim to speak for their members, but when members are given a choice, they routinely opt out of unions. In Indiana, where Governor Mitch Daniels used an executive order to end collective bargaining and gave members the right to opt out, some 95% of state employees chose not to pay union dues. The Missouri senate passed a paycheck protection act earlier this month which would require members to consent to have their dues deducted from their paycheck.

Unions fight so ferociously to stop right-to-work reform because states that pass it rarely repeal it. We believe workers should have the right to join a union if they wish, and right-to-work laws preserve that freedom of choice for individual workers even if the work place is a union shop. If Big Labor is worried about the decline of unions, they might reflect on why they can't keep their members without government coercion.



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