News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 8, 2012

FLASHPOINT: What really motivates right-to-work proposal?


---- — You may have heard about the upcoming “right-to-work” legislation before our lawmakers in the next session of “law making.” What this piece of legislation says is that workers will no longer be required to pay union dues, currently required for employment in union shops, as a condition of their employment.

On the surface this looks like a ploy to lower wages for workers who now enjoy a better standard of living than their comparable non-union counterparts. Obviously that would happen, because when union wages drop, everyone else who works for a living will suffer. As union wages go up, other wages follow, and the opposite is also true.

I enjoyed and was enlightened by Liz Ciancone’s recent piece in the Tribune Star about this topic. She made several relevant points; doctors, professional athletes, associations, and many other groups are basically unions, whether they call themselves unions or not. Are the professional athletes playing for the Colts going to stop paying dues if this bill passes?

One thing that hasn’t been brought to the surface is that money is a secondary bonus that motivates the Republicans to pass this bill. What happens if organized labor is diminished to a level that they are no longer a political threat? Who will be left to resist the Republican empire? You’ve probably heard of the “get out the vote” push that Democrats and unions alike promote around election time. This is the thorn in the side of the Republicans, so getting rid of the unions gets rid of the resistance, leaving only those with the power in place. And that’s the key word here, power. With power the Republicans will have control, and the bonus is the expansion of the wage gap.

For the record, I am not anti-business. I believe people who put their personal livelihood into their businesses are very brave, driven and determined people. They work hard, take the risks, and hopefully reap the rewards of their efforts. We need good businesses to churn the economy and hire people to work in their factories, stores and shops. At the same time businesses need reliable, qualified workers to produce their product. But what happens when there is no representation for these workers? Who will safeguard the conditions and health of our Hoosier workforce?

Hard-working people in Indiana deserve a good standard of living. Passing this bill has the potential to threaten the future of our proud workforce. There is no guarantee that even one job will be created if this bill is passed. But one thing is for sure; it won’t be labor who stuffs the difference in wages and benefits in their pocket. But the big score for the empire would be the stifling of the union-backed Democratic Party.

If you work for a living in Indiana, and you support the legislators who are backing the right-to-work bill, you may as well grab your weapon of choice and shoot yourself in the foot, because that very possibly could be how much harder it’s going to be to support your family and walk through the remainder of your working days. Indiana Republicans have tried to pass this type of legislation since the early ’60s. Now the Republican lawmakers have control and are waging an aggressive attack on the middle class, which unions represent. In this writer’s opinion, it boils down to one word; greed.

In a recent article in The Indianapolis Star, William Scheuerman, professor of political science at Indiana University, draws the following conclusion about right-to-work legislation and the impact on economic growth.

“To be sure, among the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates, seven have passed anti-union right-to-work laws. However, among the 10 with the highest unemployment rates, seven of them — including Nevada, with the worst unemployment record nationwide — are also right-to-work states. Those who have independently studied the subject (and whose paychecks come from neither the Chamber of Commerce nor labor unions) point out that a variety of factors are responsible for these differences, with right-to-work legislation typically playing little if any role in the story. If you look at state-level economic growth rates compiled by the federal government going back to 1977, right-to-work states are in fact clumped toward the bottom of the list, while states that do not discriminate against labor unions make up a disproportionate number of those enjoying impressive growth rates.”

So if right-to-work is a questionable medium for job growth, the only possible reason for the Republicans in power to aggressively put this bill on top of their priority list is to promote their own self interests. I think the average Hoosier worker is tired of carrying the load of our elected official’s poor choices and lack of creative job growth opportunities. Business and labor have to work together if we are going to see actual job growth in Indiana, but not at the expense of placing the burden on the backs of hard-working Hoosiers.

— James D. Runyan

Terre Haute