BY DICK MILLER, Editor, www.weconnectdots.net/ Organized labor continues to lose the fight for America’s workers, sometimes in spectacular fashion.
With Republicans providing all the votes, Michigan lawmakers, in a lame-duck session, quickly passed and Gov. Rick Snyder immediately signed legislation that made the state the 24th where “Right-to-Work” is legal.
Unfortunately, this blow to organized labor was deserved.
Labor in Michigan adopted a proactive strategy earlier this year. Leaders promoted passage of a referendum that would have made union protectionism part of Michigan’s constitution. Gov. Snyder, a Republican moderate, warned labor of the consequences of their attempt to lock in unionism. The referendum went down to a crushing defeat.
Michigan business groups promoted Right-to-Work because an adjoining state, Indiana, had adopted this provision in January. Economists claim Indiana showed near-instant results in companies expanding in the Hoosier state, lowering unemployment. There was fear employers first enticed to invest in Michigan would instead go to Indiana.
However, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has eased suspicions Right-to-Work will become the law of the land here despite both House and Senate controlled by the same Republican Party.
Corbett is less than a year away from rallying his troops for a reelection campaign in 2014. He first has to convince his party that he is worthy of renomination. Usually such a case is made by building a record on issues of interest to Republicans.
In that regard, Corbett began his reign in 2011 with an unprecedented attack on public education. He has convinced legislators in two fiscal budget years that Pennsylvania should cap its funding of 503 school districts as well as state-supported Universities.
Right-to-Work was on the table when Corbett took office, but clearly not a priority. Likely the votes are available in the House but too many GOP Senators, some of them in leadership, have moderate leanings. Corbett has also failed to deliver on school vouchers and privatization of the liquor-control system.
Corbett is attempting to enhance his conservative credentials by putting the management of the lottery with a private company. This road is rocky, however, because the leading candidate is not an American company; the contracting process seems more difficult than first observed; and finally, there is little support for the move.
Right-to-Work is even lower on Corbett’s list, far below underfunded pensions and fixing roads and bridges. To solve these two financial problems, Corbett may have to break a campaign pledge to not raise taxes. He may also have to rely on some Democratic votes in the legislature.
Fear of organized labor as a political force in Pennsylvania – at this junction – does not enter into Republican deliberations. Labor is not together. Industrial workers are not happy with government employees and teachers, believing their high taxes support pay and benefits no longer available in the private sector.
True, labor helped President Barack Obama capture a significant vote in November, but it has little to show elsewhere. Democrats won all three state “row” offices, but that party has had a virtual lock on two of those offices for decades.
In the Attorney General campaign, Democrat Kathleen Kane defeated labor’s endorsed candidate in the primary. The wife of the owner of a non-union trucking company, she campaigned against corruption in an office controlled by Republicans for 32 years to garner more votes than anyone else on the ballot.
Both Houses of the state legislature remained in Republican control. There are two less Democrats from Pennsylvania in Congress.
Labor starts losing “Right-to-Work” battles at the outset by allowing that title to incorrectly dominate the issue. The measure does not guarantee an individual’s right to work at all. Actually, the law allows workers to opt out of paying dues even if the workplace is represented by a union. Workers will continue to get all benefits and improved working conditions there without contributing.
The idea is to make the union unpalatable to all workers at a business. This is the problem facing Pennsylvania unions today.