Give right-to-work legislation a chance

Saturday, February 4, 2017

By now, Gov. Eric Greitens has signed the Right-to-Work legislation, as promised, and Missouri has become the 28th state to approve the controversial measure.

Labor unions are generally, though not universally, oppaosed to the measure which forbids mandatory union membership.

The truth of the matter is that Right-to-Work will not kill the union movement but it will also not guarantee an explosion of new industry locating to Missouri.

Somewhere in between these two mindsets lies the truth.

With the exception of Illinois, Missouri is surrounded by Right-to-Work states. Supporters of the measure strongly believe that puts Missouri at a competitive disadvantage when all other issues are considered.

Unions argue that without mandatory membership, union dues will decrease and diminish their power to lobby and work on behalf of their members. They believe that "freeloaders" will reap union benefits without participating in the funding required to improve those benefits.

Yet studies show that Right-to-Work states do indeed have a better business growth and that, as unions argue, wages in those states are indeed lower than in non Right-to-Work states.

The union movement in this country has truly improved working conditions for many of their members. From salaries to benefits to safety issues, unions have consistently fought for improved conditions and they have been highly successful.

But in some instances, unions have also been their own worst enemy. When victories for their union membership come at the expense of consumers, there is obvious push back.

The city of Sikeston has been told specifically in the past that we lost industries here to Right-to-Work states because of that single aspect alone.

Now don't get me wrong. Even with this new legislation there is absolutely no guarantee that potential business and industry will locate here.

There are too many elements that come into play when jobs are at stake. An available and trainable workforce is more important than a Right-to-Work issue. And living conditions within the community also come heavily into play.

I strongly suspect that down the road union membership will not be eroded nor will jobs immediately flock to our state.

But in the highly-competitive arena of industry and job recruitment, it helps to level the playing field with Right-to-Work.

I also strongly believe that if the day comes when working conditions and wages are negatively impacted by this legislation, Missourians will band together and reverse this decision.

Until then, let's see if this move brings jobs to our state while having little to no impact on the essential and important role of unions in Missouri.

Michael Jensen

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