In 2016, West Virginia lawmakers will consider making changes to state laws requiring union membership as a condition of employment in workplaces.
If passed, the legislation would make West Virginia the 26th state to allow workers to decide whether they want to join and be represented by a union.
The president of the West Virginia State Senate, Sen. Bill Cole (R-Mercer), says the status quo of mandating forced-unionism is not working.
“When you’re first in unemployment, last in workforce participation, and next-to-last in average pay, what are we trying to protect?” Cole said. “Maybe we can tip the balance the other way.”
Key to Economic Recovery
Cole says implementing right-to-work legislation is a key to boosting the state’s sluggish economic recovery.
“Our manufacturing sector in this state is virtually nonexistent in the grand picture of employment numbers,” Cole said. “It’s my job to take the initiative to do what it takes to get all of our industries working, and I see passing a right-to-work law as a critical piece of that puzzle.”
Right-to-work laws are all about free choice, Cole says.
“Right-to-work laws don’t prohibit unions at all; they just offer employees the choice of whether to belong to one,” Cole said. “If a workplace isn’t covered by a union, and members do want to organize, there’s nothing in this law that prohibits that from happening.”
Eliminating the ‘Have-Tos’
“The goal, as I see it, is to simply allow the option to be on the table,” said Cole. “Allow the workers to choose, let the free market set the wages for labor, eliminate the ‘have-tos,’ and see what happens. It’s giving the workers the freedom they’ve not had in this state before.”
Jim Shaffer, president of the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia, says right-to-work laws empower workers to demand better representation from union bosses.
“With little accountability, unions forcibly take dues and create large, influential, special-interest groups,” Shaffer said. “An old saw goes, ‘You have no say about your taxes nor your dues.'”
Shaffer says the freedom to join or abstain from organizations is an important right.
“Economic freedom [is] the ability to participate [in and the ability to negotiate with] the exchange of goods and services between consenting transparent individuals, unencumbered by the auspices of government … this is the very essence of a free market,” Shaffer said. “By being forced to join a union as a condition of employment, individuals give up their right to free association [and are] forced to acquiesce to the agenda of a group that does not respect the right to voluntarily organize as a personal choice.”
Andy Torbett ([email protected]) writes from Atkinson, Maine.
Walter J. Wessels, “Economic Effects of Right to Work Laws,” Journal of Labor Research: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/economic-effects-right-work-laws/