Last night I watched video clip on a local television station in St. Louis, MO where Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt made an impassioned plea for “right to work” legislation, to, as I understand it, “make Missouri more competitive with other states”.
Governor Greitens also supports “right to work” legislation, as I understand it, for the same reason.
We’ve heard the claim that “right to work” legislation is beneficial to job creation many times.
If our elected officials believe that “right to work” legislation has value, they should be able to support this claim with hard evidence.
We’ve not heard, or seen, or been presented with, any evidence that this is the case.
Neither Governor Greitens nor State Treasurer Schmitt has presented any evidence, in the form of surveys, economic research, or any other information, to support this claim.
There may or may not be such evidence, although many believe that “right to work” legislation reduces wages and benefits for both union and non-union workers, and others believe it helps increase the number of jobs, albeit at lower wages.
However, it might not be too hard to figure this out. I challenge both Governor Greitens and State Treasurer Schmitt to answer the following question:
Do either of these state officials, or their campaign staffs, or anyone else in Missouri government, past or present, have lists of companies that that have been contacted and have said,
(1) “sure, pass right to work legislation, and we’ll move to Missouri post haste” ?
(2) “we would really like to come to Missouri, but we have an existing labor contract we would like to get rid of, so right work legislation would be a great help, and we would relocate to Missouri if right to work legislation were enacted” ?
(3) “we already employ workers in Missouri, have existing union contracts in place, and without right to work legislation, we will leave Missouri this year, or go out of business in Missouri” ?
(4) “we would like to start a business in Missouri, but the business we wish to create would have to be union, and we just don’t want to deal with that.” ?
I’m going to go out on a limb here, guessing that the answer to my question is that there are no lists of any companies that were contacted about the effect to right to work legislation on their business and employment decisions—the homework simply wasn’t done.
If this is the case, then the “justification” for this push for right to work legislation has about the same quality as the push for state financing for a new MLS stadium—both claim to have benefits for Missouri, but in fact there really aren’t any.
Both Governor Greitens and State Treasurer Schmitt appear to be family oriented. Governor Greitens exhorted men yesterday to spend more time with their children, play sports with them, and be there for them. This is quite a bit easier to do if men don’t have to work 10-12 hours a day or work two or three jobs to support their families.
Both the Governor and State Treasurer need to consider that if wages are limited or reduced, the amount of state income tax collected will be reduced as well. Currently the Governor is looking at roughly $500 million in proposed state expenses that cannot be covered by current state tax revenue. Good wages for workers are also good for the State of Missouri in this regard.
The history of collective bargaining in the USA goes back to the Industrial Revolution, at which time workers had to work long hours for little pay and no benefits. Attempts to bargain collectively were fought by businesses for a long time. There was much hostility toward workers’ desire for better wages and working conditions. Eventually it took US Federal Legislation to provide a reasonable and fair framework for collective bargaining.
Recently, Schnucks Supermarkets in St. Louis and the UFCW (union for grocery store employees) underwent a contract renegotiation. The employees rejected the first offer from Schnucks, and voted to strike unless a more satisfactory offer was made. After some additional negotiation, a new offer was made by Schnucks and accepted by the employees. Without a union to represent their interests, the employees would likely have awakened one morning and found themselves with a new set of wages and benefits that were unsatisfactory.
From my personal point of view, workers need the help of labor unions not only to negotiate wages and benefits, but also to help protect them from arbitrary actions on the part of employers.
A couple of years ago I met a man who had just “retired” from working as an auto mechanic at a local car dealership. He told me that his employer had terminated him and replaced him with a younger worker, who presumably would be paid less than he had been paid. Because this man was a member of a union, he was given assistance in dealing with this situation. Under the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, his termination may have been unlawful, and to assert his rights, he would have had to sue his employer. The union talked to the employer about this situation, and indicated it was willing to support this worker’s claim. The Federal Older Workers Benefit Protection Act gives employers a way out of this without being sued by offering payment of a settlement, in exchange for which the employee agrees not to sue the employer. The employer and employee agreed to settle the claim in this way.
If our state officials really care about the people of Missouri, they will let them form unions and bargain collectively without interference from right to work laws. Businesses have plenty of economic power. Unions help balance that power by bargaining collectively for employees.