January 13, 2017
Matt Patterson, Contributor
On January 11, Donald Trump held his first press conference since the election.
During the sometimes-heated exchange with reporters, Trump reiterated his promise that he will make it more expensive for American companies to produce overseas than here in the United States, vowing “…there will be a major border tax on these companies that are leaving.”
This time however Trump stressed the importance of state-to-state competition:
You’ve got a lot of states at play; a lot of competition. So it’s not like, oh, gee, I’m taking the competition away. You’ve got a lot of places you can move. And I don’t care, as along as it’s within the United States, the borders of the United States.
In other words, what each state does to improve its own business climate will be more important than ever as overseas production becomes a less viable option for American companies. And so smart lawmakers will do everything they can to improve their states’ attractiveness to job creators.
One of the things they can do is right-to-work.
A right-to-work law allows workers to opt out of union membership and dues. To date 27 states have passed such laws, in part because it is a powerful economic development tool (businesses are attracted to right-to-work areas because it is more expensive and risky for unions to organize there, and hence they tend to be less powerful).
When Kentucky passed its right-to-work law on January 7 it put additional pressure on Missouri, where the legislature is also considering the measure. As was noted repeatedly in a hearing before the state Senate General Laws Committee on January 11, seven of the eight states that border Missouri are now right-to-work. As the sponsor of the bill Senator Dan Brown put it, “right-to-work is no longer a leg up — it’s now about survival.”
So right-to-work attracts jobs. States can no longer afford not to have it if they want to stay competitive, especially in a Trump economy. But there is another angle that I touched on in my testimony to that Missouri Senate Committee on right-to-work.
That day, a representative from the Missouri AFL-CIO was on hand to argue against allowing workers the option of not joining a union (of course). What the gentleman failed to remind the Committee, however, is how political the AFL-CIO is. And its politics tilts decidedly Left.
Missouri is a culturally conservative state, filled with church-going folk who love to hunt and love the Second Amendment. In 2016 Trump crushed Hillary in Missouri; In 2012 Romney won decisively. Even in 2008, the Show-Me State resisted the Obama wave, going for John McCain (by a whisker)
But the AFL-CIO endorsed — and funded — Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The AFL-CIO is an open advocate of Planned Parenthood. The AFL-CIO is opposed to school choice. In fact there is almost no item on the progressive agenda that the AFL-CIO hasn’t whole-heartedly financially supported.
So where does the union get the money for all this left-wing agitating? Oh yeah, from workers, including workers in Missouri — conservative, Trump-voting, gun-loving workers in Missouri. And if the AFL-CIO gets its way, it will continue to force Missouri workers to pay up so it can continue to give money to the Obama’s of the world.
But it won’t get its way. Missouri voters elected a pro-worker legislature and a pro-worker governor in 2016; right-to-work is all but a done deal.
Of course, it’s not a silver bullet for every economic woe. As Tim Jones, Chairman of The Missouri Club for Growth, reminded me, to be truly effective right-to-work must be part of a larger agenda that promotes job creation:
Right-to-work will simply be the beginning of all the necessary reforms that the Missouri Legislature will need to tackle… Getting a handle on wasteful state spending, reducing the regulatory and tax burden, making necessary reforms to our abysmal tort system and…school choice and education reform are all key components of having a strong, vibrant state economy.
Indeed. Right-to-work is but a first step toward state competitiveness. But it will be an increasingly necessary step in the Trump Era.
Matt Patterson is the Executive Director of the Center for Worker Freedom and president of 1st Amendment First. Mpatterson.firstname.lastname@example.org.