Project 21 New Visions

Stacy Swimp

President Obama and Right to Work


by Stacy Swimp (bio)

 

"Right to Work" laws provide American workers with a choice. Put simply, it prohibits compulsory union membership.

If a worker wants to join a union, they can. Right to Work laws mean they cannot be forced to do so and are protected from retribution.

President Obama is against such laws protecting freedom of choice. On April 30, at the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department Legislative Conference, Obama said Right to Work laws are a "political" ploy aimed at "dismantling unions." He added that he would support union-favored Project Labor Agreements and the David-Bacon Act "as long as I serve as your president."

Obama's assertions aren't true.

For clarity of perspective, the National Labor Relation Act, passed in 1935, allows for labor unions to form and protect them from employer retaliation. The 1947 Taft Hartley Act, a revision to the NLRA, allows states to pass "Right to Work" laws to counter discrimination against workers' freedom to choose to join a union.

Currently, 23 states have some sort of Right to Work law in place.

Right to Work laws protect freedom and helps workers. A National Institute Labor Relations Institute concluded that Right to Work states benefit from faster grown and higher real purchasing power. Between 1999 and 2009, according to the report, real personal income grew 28.3 percent in Right to Work states as opposed to 14.7 percent in states with compulsory union membership.

The Heritage Foundation published another study that concluded Right to Work states have lower unemployment rates (9.2 percent) than states without them (9.9 percent).

What really must concern union bosses is that Right to Work protections threaten union power and income. For example, union membership plummeted 15 percent when Idaho and Oklahoma instituted Right to Work protections. In a state such as Michigan, a similar percentage drop would deprive unions (and add to workers' paychecks) an estimated $46.4 million in union dues.

So Right to Work would save workers money, contrary to Obama's mocking claim that these laws should be called "the right to work for less and less."

Terry Bowman, president of Union Conservatives, told me: "President Barack Obama tried to mend some broken fences with labor officials, but his remarks fell far short of what is needed if union workers are going to support the flailing president. Union officials are committed to getting the current president elected and continue to spend the hard-earned dues of union workers on offensive political activity."

Bowman added: "Union workers are divided in their support for having their union dues — much of which is seized by union bosses in states forced union membership — used to support mob-like political activity like the occupy movement. Why should the 40 percent of union members who do not agree with the political activity of their union officials be forced to fund this activity?"

Right to Work states are said to create more jobs, lose fewer jobs, gain more new residents, have fewer people on welfare, and provide more personal income growth than non-Right to Work States. Additionally, Right to Work laws also appear decidedly beneficial to middle class — contrary to the assertions of the President.

In light of the overwhelming evidence offered by trusted think tanks, President Obama should issue a retraction of the misleading remarks he made about Right to Work laws. Furthermore, he should, going forward, acknowledge that Right to Work laws are pro-business and pro-worker.

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Stacy Swimp is a spokesman for the Project 21 black leadership network, president of the Frederick Douglass Society and talk radio host. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.


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