… or at least that’s what protection racket leader Randi Weingarten wants us to believe.
My goodness! From the response in certain quarters, you would think that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker breached national security – and then maybe tried to lie his way out of it! But no. All he did last week was sign off on right-to-work (RTW) legislation that lets workers in the Badger State choose whether or not they want to join and pay dues to a union as a condition of employment..
That’s it. Nothing more. Unions are not outlawed. Union members don’t have to ride on the back of the bus. Unions – heaven forbid – still don’t have to pay a penny in income tax. All they have to do is compete for members just like every other privately run organization in the country. If you buy a gun, you are not forced to pay money to the NRA. If you take out a book from the library, you don’t have to pay tribute to the American Library Association. So why in God’s name should a worker be forced to pay a union in order to be employed in certain fields?
I really can’t answer that question, and after reading condemnations from all the usual suspects, I’m still clueless. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten came out with a press release after the Wisconsin right-to-work law was passed that transcended hysteria. In addition to claiming that Walker fails “the test of common decency,” she lectured,
By his actions and statements, Walker has revealed that his plan to win the Republican nomination is a willingness to say and do anything to attack and tear down workers.
If you want a strong middle class, then you can’t take out the unions that built it. If you want higher wages, then workers need a voice.
The workers of Wisconsin are resilient. They will continue to fight back and wait until they have a governor who will work with them, not work to break them.
Again, no workers are being attacked and torn down. No one is refusing them their union. No one is trying to break them. (A few cynical types, but not me of course, have suggested that the real reason Weingarten is upset is because fewer union members would result in less money for the union. And a lower membership rate could mean that her $543,679 income, well within the top one percent, is in jeopardy.)
Other responses to Walker have been just as over-the-top. Marc Perrone, president of the 1.3 million strong United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, weighed in.
The truth is by standing against hard-working families, Gov. Scott Walker should be ashamed, but we know he is not. He has chosen to pursue a radical agenda that willingly ignores that this law will devastate countless workers and their families. Make no mistake, this law gives irresponsible corporations, let alone politicians, the right to exploit and mistreat countless men and women all across Wisconsin.
This barely coherent statement is pathetic, as is the notion that countless men and women are now going to be “mistreated.” In fact, since Michigan went RTW, the reverse is true. There, in less than two years of worker freedom, employment has grown 3.3 percent and earnings have increased 5.4 percent, both above the national average.
Even President Obama put on his pity-party pajamas and intoned,
… it’s inexcusable that, over the past several years … there’s been a sustained, coordinated assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government.
So even as its governor claims victory over working Americans, I’d encourage him to try and score a victory for working Americans — by taking meaningful action to raise their wages and offer them the security of paid leave.
That’s how you give hard working middle-class families a fair shot in the new economy — not by stripping their rights in the workplace, but by offering them all the tools they need to get ahead.
Perhaps the president would be advised to examine the facts instead of engaging in demagoguery. James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation, recently pointed out that in addition to protecting a worker’s freedom, right-to-work laws attract new businesses and jobs (unionized firms were 10 percent more likely to go out of business within seven years). Also, if a business is going to relocate, RTW laws are a major selling point. Also as I wrote last month, the Illinois Policy Institute’s Paul Kersey reports that RTW states are much stronger economically than their forced-dues counterparts:
- From 2002 to 2012, states with right-to-work laws saw a 7.2 percent increase in payroll employment, compared to a 2 percent increase in other states.
- As of September 2014, right-to-work states had an average unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, compared to 6 percent in non-right-to-work states.
- From 2000 to 2010, right-to-work states saw population growth that was twice as fast as that in other states (13.6 percent compared to 7.3 percent).
- Median wages in right-to-work states appear $4,345 lower than in other states. However, once you take into account cost of living and local taxes, right-to-work state wages rise. In fact, the cost of living is 16.6 percent higher in states without right-to-work laws.
- Right-to-work economies grew by 62 percent from 2002 to 2012, compared to just 46.5 percent growth in other states.
And for those who insist that this is a “big business vs. the little guy” battle, a recent Gallup Poll found that 71 percent of Americans favor RTW laws with just 22 percent opposing. Gallup also found that 82 percent agree that “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will.”
Again – and this cannot be stressed enough – RTW legislation is not about outlawing unions, but rather freeing employees from a burden they never bargained for. Scott Manley, vice president of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, put it best. “If you don’t support right-to-work, you support the proposition that workers should be fired if they don’t pay dues to a union,” he said.
Without RTW, workers have to pay up or else. When the Mafia engaged in this kind of activity, it was called a protection or extortion racket. Unions try to sanitize their operation by claiming that workers are paying their “fair share.” But in fact, it’s nothing more than a shakedown, and I congratulate Scott Walker and his legislature for liberating workers and enabling Wisconsin to become the 25th RTW state. We are officially half-way there.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.