November 8, 2010
Time to Tackle Right to Work
The 2010 landslide means that Republicans in the House can stop any new legislative initiatives by the Democrats and that Senate Republicans, if united, can stop almost anything Democrats want to do in that body as well. House Republicans can also send to the Senate bills that will put political pressure on Obama and Senate Democrats, like a complete extension of the Bush tax cuts. But at the federal level, Republicans cannot actually do anything without Democrats caving in.
The situation is very different at the state level. Republicans now control both houses of the state legislature and the governorship in a number of states. Republicans now have complete control of state government in twenty states compared to a paltry seven states before the midterm election. Crucially, Republicans now control all state government in five industrial rust belt states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. This control will allow Republicans to draw congressional districts and also, just as importantly, state legislative districts -- a real political blow to Democrats.
Unlike the federal government, a party that actually controls the state legislature and governorship can enact laws -- the filibuster is an odd creature almost unique to the United States Senate. There are many things Republicans in control of state governments should do: limit spending, cut tax rates, reduce regulation. But there is one reform that stout-hearted Republicans running those five rust belt states should definitely do: pass right to work laws. The Taft-Hartley Act allows each state the option of enacting right to work laws, which allow workers to not join a labor union as a condition of employment. Twenty-two states have adopted right to work laws, and these states closely resemble the twenty-two states that Obama lost in 2008. Although the leftist establishment media gets a disproportionate amount of attention from conservatives, along with risible "civil rights" leaders and surreally silly academicians, the real political muscle of the Left comes from organized labor -- meaning the bosses who run with those vast empires called "labor unions" and who use the forced dues from members to engage in constant war against conservatives.
Almost one in five members of organized labor lives in the five rust belt states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Labor unions poured an enormous amount of money into the 2010 midterm elections, focusing almost exclusively on defeating Republicans. A poll conducted by Frank Luntz shows that individual union members overwhelmingly disapproved of this spending, and this same poll showed a strong unhappiness with current labor leadership. Enacting right to work laws in those five rust belt states would immediately deal a body blow to organized labor in America, reducing its power to influence elections in America dramatically. Republicans would be fools not to aggressively push this agenda against union bosses who are inextricably bound up with the corrupt leadership of the Left.
But there is another vital reason why these five states should adopt right to work laws. States with right to work laws have lower unemployment rates than states without right to work. Unions are, in every sense of the word (except raw power for leftist bosses), an anachronism. Union dues come out of the income of union workers, reducing their real wages. Union contracts increase labor costs for employers and so induce businesses to leave for places which allow market forces to determine terms of employment. The cumulative effect for highly unionized states, like Michigan, is nothing short of calamitous. As unemployment rates rise and people leave for greener pastures, home values drop and companies forced to operate manacled by union contracts go belly-up.
More than anything else, a regional adoption by these five contiguous states of right to work laws, perhaps effective the same day, would be the clearest signal to industry and commerce that the old attitude of antagonism between business and labor has been properly cast into the dustbin of history. If sweetened by incentives to business to invest again in these once-beehives of production, the flow of money, people, and enterprise out of this region and into right to work states might slow and even reverse. This would not just become a winning ticket for Republicans in these states in 2012 and 2014, when the governors of four of the five states will again face voters, but it would create a strong argument for Republicans in contiguous states like Illinois, Missouri, and Minnesota, where Republicans made big gains in 2010 but do not quite yet have the ability to pass right to work. Even more importantly, the success of right to work in these five rust belt state would be a powerful argument to enact a national right to work law.
Would unions howl? Sure. What else is new? Politically, Republicans should take the attitude of President Reagan when cautioned about confronting irreconcilable enemies: "What are they going to do? Hang us from a higher tree?" Big labor will always do all it can to defeat Republicans, except for trained poodles and similar nominally Republican pets. Would unions strike? With unemployment so high, how many eager hands looking for work would quickly fill the jobs left by strikers? This is a reform that Republicans can enact and should enact. There is no political and no policy "downside." All it takes is vision and guts.
Bruce Walker is the author of a new book: Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life.