Right to Work, the GOP, and 2016

Governor Scott Walker recently created big news when he signed legislation making Wisconsin in the 25th right-to-work state in the country. 

This is a continuation of a dramatic shift in how Big Labor is viewed in the Midwest. Michigan, home of the UAW, and Indiana became right-to-work states in 2013. Prior to that, in 2011, Wisconsin reformed the collective bargaining rights of government workers.

For those who many not know or who are confused by union disinformation, right-to-work does not prohibit unionization. It merely gives workers the freedom not to belong to unions and still keep their jobs. This is an overwhelmingly popular stance. Gallup reports that 71% of Americans support right-to-work. 

Which brings up an interesting question. How many people do you suppose are compelled to be in unions because they are not protected by right-to-work laws? Michigan and Wisconsin shed some light on this.  

In the law's first full year in Michigan, union membership fell by 48,000 even as employment in the state rose. 

In Wisconsin, when government employees were given the opportunity in 2011 to leave their unions, they fled in droves. Something like 70% of the members of the state's employee union left. As for the powerful teachers unions, the membership of the American Federation of Teachers and National Education of Teachers declined by more than 50% and 30%, respectively. 

With statistics like these, how can the labor bosses proclaim with a straight face that they represent the workers? They can't. Union membership has steadily declined over the years. And the only reason unions aren't even smaller yet is because of legal cohesion -- that is, many workers are forced into unions to keep their jobs in states without right-to-work protection. 

The legal sanction to override the rights of workers and companies in favor of unions dates back to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act. This Depression-era legislation put the heavy thumb of government of the scale of labor relations in favor of the unions. 

Semantics is important here. If the Wagner Act was ever to be repealed, it would not be a blow to rights of unions to organize. It would however put an end to the extraordinary legal privileges that unions presently enjoy -- privileges that come at the expense of the rights of workers and companies, and indeed at the expense of the free market and the overall economy.

And on top of insuring fundamental rights to workers, right-to-work states, by nearly any economic metric, outperform other states. This includes growth in jobs and population as well as per capital income when adjusted for cost of living.

In looking at my home state, it is puzzling that in this environment Governor John Kasich refuses to support right-to-work for Ohio. Here he is the odd man out with his fellow Republican governors in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. 

One of the bright stars in the Ohio GOP stable and a driving forces for right-to-work is state representative Kristina Daily Roegner (R-37 District). She observes that without the invigorating effects that right-to-work would bring, Ohio will be placing itself at a severe competitive disadvantage with respect to its surrounding states as the heavy hand of union compulsion and its inherent inefficiency continues to stunt Ohio's economic potential.

Summing up the chances for right-to-work in Ohio, Roegner says that, unfortunately, there does not appear to be an appetite, by either Ohio's governor or the general assembly, to advance such legislation at this time. 

Some say that Kasich at least tried to modernize public sector collective bargaining with SB5, the controversial 2011 bill that limited the collective bargaining powers of public-employee unions. Not so. Although Kasich did sign that public sector labor reform bill, it was never Kasich's idea. It was the legislature's. And when there was a statewide referendum on SB5 after its passage, Kasich hardly lifted a finger to defend it. 

John Kasich has a soft spot when it comes to organized labor. This can only diminish, if not extinguish, his chances for winning the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. The days when Republican politicians could get away with lying down for Big Labor are past.