Recently we have been reminded of the battle between corporate interests and labor interests thanks to the passage of right to work legislation in Michigan. Personally I applied the introduction of Right to Work laws but many pro labor forces don’t see it that way. So far I have seen leftist articles talking about Right to Work laws being rooted in racism. (Untrue but the earliest promoters was a racist.) There have been articles, numerous ones who keep talking about the Koch brothers and how this is all a conspiracy to destroy American Labor. Some have even tried to hide their agenda under labels like libertarianism and liberty. Actually both sides have done that. Still, right to work laws are a good thing and I will tell you why.
This is not the early parts of the 20th century where we were still adjusting to the change from agrarian to industrial society with the movement of the population to urban centers. There are laws that govern worker safety and fair corporate practices as well as work weeks and overtime pay. Right to work laws don’t take away collective bargaining rights or the ability to strike. What they do is make it a personal choice to fund the union or not. Unions don’t like these laws because it means they make less money and have less control over the workers. Labor would have you believe that corporations are out to screw over workers every chance they get so they have to have money in their war chests for fight for the average Joe. Maybe if this was 1940 but the world doesn’t work like that much anymore.
Now with globalization the cost of being competitive is higher than it used to be. Now, I agree a person should be paid a fair wage for a fair days work. That isn’t what this is about. Lets use GM as an example. During the bailout crisis it came to light that many former employees were still on the pay roll and getting paid 80 percent of their salary to sit in the union work hall waiting to get called back. Some had been there for years still getting paid but not working. The pension plan was in the billions of dollars for health benefits and some of those were not for retirees of the company but for those sitting in that work hall all day. Tell me how is that fair? When you are buying that new HVAC unit cause your old one died on your, tell me why you should be paying the costs of the union that forces the company to pay a guy to put two screws in that unit over 25 bucks an hour. Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen because it does. Tell me how it is fair that unions mandate 15 minute breaks for 45 minutes of work in some manufacturing jobs?
The truth is worker costs are some of the highest overhead costs facing companies today. Not just in the automotive industry but in others as well. Take some of the larger phone companies. AT&T who I normally dislike as a company has hell with their line employees because they need to cut down the number of workers for that department. The union won’t let them and even went so far as to call a strike in the last decade. The truth is, line phones are no longer as prevalent as they once were and they don’t need as many workers for those services. Now, I can understand the workers wanting to keep their jobs but why should the consumer have to suffer with increased costs when these employees should either start to retrain or look for other work or here is a concept become excellent at their job so it is worth keeping them on.
Its about economic realities folks. When a company gives a pay raise to employees it comes out of the companies pocket and it comes at the expense of the consumer. Some of that is expected and should happen. Companies need to innovate to keep producing products that the consumer wants. Same with the service industry. Workers should be paid cost of living wages and or merit raises. A company that wants to remain competitive has to offer comparable or generous benefit packages. That is how they maintain and retain employees. As we have seen in the news lately, unions don’t work that way. Take the situation at Chrysler. Some employees were drinking and smoking weed in the park on a lunch break, caught and rightfully removed from work. The union got them hired back. So much for worker safety.
Ultimately both sides are going to have its elements who are selfish and only want what they want and the rest be damned. The truth is right to work laws have promoted the economic well being of the states where they were enacted. These same states still have unions, and collective bargaining. Some people point to the amount of minimum wage jobs in those states. I say look at the cost of living in those states as opposed to closed shop states. The numbers don’t lie. Unemployment is lower in Right to Work states. More companies move into Right to Work states thereby providing jobs. Right to Work is important to the economy and to workers who want to work.