5 Of The Biggest Right-To-Work Battles

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Lawmakers in several states are considering their own right-to-work legislation, but opponents warn such proposals will hurt the middle class.

The idea, which has passed in 24 states already, outlaws forced union dues as a condition of employment. Despite adamant opposition, states like Missouri, New Mexico, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Kentucky have all been considering the law.

In West Virginia, the newly elected Republican majority is currently considering a statewide RTW law. The change in the legislature makes the passage of such a law much more likely than in the past and this, according to polls, is exactly what residents want. According to a recent Americans for Prosperity poll, two out of three residents of the state support the passage of a RTW bill. This includes 77 percent of independents.

“People are ready for more opportunities in West Virginia,” Wendy McCuskey, the state director of AFP, told WDTV. “Our work force participation rate fell below 50% this year and I think people want to try something new.”

However, not everyone agrees that the legislation will help improve the local economy. State Delegate Mike Caputo, a Democrat, warns the legislation will drive down wages and safety standards.

“Those two statistics concern me greatly,” Caputo told WDTV. “If your workplace is a unionized workplace and someone that works there elects not to pay dues, that person would have to still be represented by the Union.”

Missouri Republicans have already gotten a RTW bill through their State House and now it awaits approval by their Senate. Though the proposal is likely to be vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon according to The Daily Star Journal, State Rep. Eric Burlison argues the legislation will help the economy and therefore it is worth fighting for.

“This is an important and historic moment for our state as we move closer to true worker freedom, and the enhanced economic prosperity that inevitably will result from becoming a Freedom to Work state,” Burlison said in a press release. “Missouri’s economy on all fronts has suffered because of current state statutes. Missouri is not as competitive on the world market as it could be. Businesses are bypassing our state for greener pastures. Freedom to Work will level the playing field and allow us to compete for new employers and jobs.”

Though Republicans hold a majority in the Senate, some argue that passage of the bill is not at all certain.

“I don’t have any feel for how the Senate will go on this one,” House Speaker Pro Tempore Denny Hoskins said at a gathering Thursday, according to The Daily Star Journal. “Once it gets over there, they have the power to filibuster.”

“The main good is not only for the 54th District but the state of Missouri, as it gives the workers the right to choose if they want to join a union or not,” Hoskins also noted. “If they see the benefits of joining one, then they have that opportunity. If they … don’t see the perceived benefits, then they don’t have to join that union.”

Kentucky is considering RTW on both the state and county level. Though last week, a statewide bill died in the House, several counties have already passed ordinances, The Courier-Journal reports. In December, Warren County actually became the first county in the country to have its own RTW law.

Wisconsin has been a center point for worker rights advocacy since Gov. Scott Walker took office. During his first term, Walker became a target for many national unions when he worked with the state’s Republican legislature to pass a labor reform initiative, known as Act 10. The act significantly changed the collective bargaining process for most public employees within the state.

Since that time, Republicans leaders and activists in the state have wanted to go even further and pass their own RTW law. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, has led the way in pushing the idea but Walker himself has warned that the issue could become a distraction from more important goals.

Proponents in New Mexico also argue that a RTW law could greatly help their state. As KRQE News reports, Republicans included a minimum wage increase of fifty cents an hour in the hopes of bringing bipartisan support to their RTW bill currently be discussed.

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Connor D. Wolf