Former governor of New Mexico and Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is criticizing policies that unfairly benefit labor unions, like forcing workers to be members when they may not want to be.
While many on the right warn of laws that benefit unions, others on the left argue unions must be strengthened because they protect workers and keep wages and benefits at fair levels. With some version of the law already in 24 states and several others currently considering it, right-to-work has become the main issue in the debate. The policy outlaws forced union membership as a condition of employment. Johnson argues it’s not just a good policy, it’s an area conservatives and libertarians can come together on.
“I think it does send an important message and along with that it saves people money,” Johnson told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Same product, same service at a lower price. You know, that’s a good formula.”
Recalling his former construction company, Johnson argued it would have been much more difficult to operate his business if all his employees were required to be in a union.
“People that belong to the union, I found, were absolutely the best there were, they were the best employees, the best workers I have ever seen,” Johnson noted. “But I also had union members that were the worse employees that I have ever seen or ever interacted with.”
“I had to fire or get rid of the worst and I was able to reward the best,” Johnson continued. “If I was a union shop I would have had to except both as equals and that’s not real, that’s not the real world. I want to be able to reward the best and I want to be able to get rid of the worst.”
Johnson also argued that unions play a major role in out of control government spending, an issue that many on the right, including both conservatives and libertarians, are concerned about.
“Unionization where it is on the rise and where it is the most prevalent is in the public sector, and so we have costs added to everything it is that we pay for from a taxpayer stand point,” Johnson noted.
Recent research on the matter has shown conflicting results. An American Enterprise Institute report shows government expenditures have gone up significantly because of the increased cost of unionized government workers compared to nonunionized workers. But a separate report from The Mercatus Center shows the opposite, although it does note this may indicate cuts to services in order to provide additional compensation to employees.
Currently, the New Mexico legislature is considering a statewide right-to-work bill. Johnson, who was the state’s governor from 1995 to 2003, says such a bill would of course help if passed into law, but he is not confident it will get through the state Senate.
“I do know that the impediment lies in the Senate, the Senate is controlled by Democrats,” Johnson notes. “Sanchez has said, ‘No, it’s not going to advance.’”
Johnson, however, is optimistic because of recent polls that show people in the state are starting to favor the policy. According to a poll by The New Mexico Political Journal, 70 percent of state residents support the policy. This, Johnson feels, may convince opponents down the road that they should pass it. Johnson noted that polls might be showing people are beginning to favor right-to-work laws across the country. According to Gallup, union approval is at 53 percent while right-to-work is at 71 percent.
“Maybe people are beginning to understand that, ‘Wow I am a really good worker, I’m a better teacher, I deserve to be paid more, I want to be in a situation where I can be rewarded for my performance as opposed to being part of an organization where all of us are accepted as equal when in fact we’re not,’” Johnson detailed. “I think we’re growing up to that. One size does not fit all.”
Recently, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Steve King introduced a federal right-to-work bill. Johnson said that, though such a bill would be a good thing, it most likely will not become law with President Barack Obama still in office.
“The only way it’s going to happen is with a Republican controlled Congress and a Republican controlled presidency,” Johnson argued. “So if Republicans remain in control of both houses and there is a Republican president then yes, that’s the only way I see it happening.”
Johnson also agreed that Democrats often unfairly benefit unions with laws and regulations, but argued that the problem of special interests exists on both sides of the aisle.
“With the ruling, the Supreme Court, that corporations can have unlimited contributions, it’s kind of a counter weight to the unions,” Johnson noted. “And yes, that’s why politically unions exists is because they are the main contributors to Democrats.”
Labor reform and ending forced unionization are things Johnson sees different groups and the right coming together on. He argues a Republican candidate for president would be wise to focus on issues like right-to-work.
“I think commonsense prevails constantly, and that this is really a commonsense issue,” Johnson concluded.
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