In a recent op-ed, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, suggests that workers in right-to-work states who enjoy union representation without paying dues are freeloaders.
When a Democrat complains about freeloaders, it’s time to put down the coffee.
Stumbo says that right-to-work hurts unions. Well, that depends.
If 5 percent of a right-to-work state’s workforce is union and if that state enjoys significant economic growth through good economic policy, more union jobs will be created than in a 10 percent union state with bad economic policy and little economic growth. Ten percent of nothing is still nothing, even in Frankfort.
A good leader imagines possibilities and acts.
How many Kentucky businesses have decided not to expand because of their union labor costs? How many companies considering expansion or relocation ignore Kentucky because it’s a union shop?
Stumbo says employment numbers are improving, but he cannot attribute that improvement to Kentucky’s union status. Arguing that Washington’s debt binge is kicking in would be more plausible.
The truth is that economic growth is maximized by pro-growth economic policies, including right-to-work. The more something costs, the less it’s traded – including labor.
Any artifice that raises the price of labor – whether it’s a minimum wage or a prevailing (union) wage – will decrease jobs. Just ask the newly unemployed in Seattle and San Francisco, where minimum wages were recently raised to $15 per hour. Or ask the unemployed Kentuckian who cannot negotiate his own price.
Stumbo gushes that Georgetown’s Toyota remains non-union; the United Auto Workers are less enthused.
If it were up to the UAW, not only would Toyota be union, it would have been converted long ago and without a secret ballot. The tough thing about a secret ballot is that it’s impossible to figure out whose door to knock on in the middle of the night.
Right-to-work is not just an economic issue.
Imagine a Tennessee businesswoman who employs people she considers her extended family. She may not want to expand into Kentucky where her employees could be forced to bankroll suited men who used to get dirty and organizations with which they politically disagree. Perhaps she values her employees’ freedom of conscience and choice, as well as her own freedom of contract.
Stumbo does not mention that most union political money goes to Democrats, or that unions have a long history of beating down competition from unskilled workers – particularly poor black workers.
Black unemployment once mirrored white unemployment; however, during the Great Depression, unions helped pass prevailing-wage laws like the Davis-Bacon Act, which sacrifices poor workers willing to sell their labor at a lower price.
Since the New Deal, the nation’s poor have been beneficiaries of government largesse, and they have understandably shifted their political support to their benefactors.
President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty. It’s difficult to thresh out compassion from his cynical calculation to grow, solidify and entrench the poor’s support of Democrats.
Republicans freed black Americans, argued for full citizenship for decades and eventually provided the majority of the votes for the Civil Rights Act.
Fishing for votes, big-government Democrats entangled blacks in safety nets – a different type of bondage; $20 trillion dollars buys a lot of political support, and a lot of human misery.
The payoff has been particularly big for Democrats in Baltimore; their decades-old political success was recently illuminated by bonfires.
When something is wrong, it’s time to check one’s premises.
Where they have been ruled by Democrats for decades, the poor should check their premises. After seeing the success of right-to-work states, Kentuckians should check theirs, too.
Dr. Cameron S. Schaeffer is a pediatric urologist who practices in Lexington and Louisville.