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Politics // The Right Price
Larry Price

What’s New On The Union Front

There are a lot of things happening on the union front that could have a big effect on the upcoming national and local elections. There is a lot of planning in the political world to push for more right-to-work laws, especially in the Midwest and South.

The trend in right-to-work law discussion is centered on the issue of compulsory union dues and measures to give workers more freedoms in the process. The political leader of the effort is Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who says that right-to-work laws are “winning the future.” He cites faster income growth, increased job growth and increasing population as reasons for businesses to invest in the 22 right-to-work states.

Indiana is the latest battleground. The state passed right-to-work legislation earlier this year, and the governor signed the bill into law Feb. 1. Although not yet fully implemented, protesters are vowing to repeal the law, saying that it will lower wages across the board, not just for union workers. If this all happens as planned, benefits to the state will be seen in new companies relocating there because of the right-to-work law. Other states quietly working on serious proposals for right-to-work legislation include Ohio, New Hampshire and Minnesota.

In prosperous times, public perception swings toward increasing individual liberty, while in recessions, organized labor attempts to frame businesses as unfair. During the economy recovery following World War II, unions lost significant membership and public support in favor of individual freedoms. It was during this time that right-to-work laws garnered public and political support. As America works on improving its sluggish economy, it is possible that more right-to-work laws will gain support.

And while new bills are being drafted, Americans and businesses are increasingly migrating away from compulsory unionized states and reaping the positive rewards that come with right-to-work laws. In Hawaii, especially in the public sector, being a union member does not mean what it meant 50 years ago. There is lot of conversation about how much the public union leaders actually can protect their workers in the face of cuts in wages, trimming hard-earned benefits, as well as legislators’ and the judiciary’s unsympathetic constitutional rulings.

It’s obvious that the union leadership needs to come up with a new strategy to revitalize membership. They can’t expect their members to support the re-election campaigns of officials who produce one unfavorable ruling after another. And while it is unlikely that Hawaii will ever become a right-to-work state, it’s not impossible.

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