An item appearing on the AFL-CIO Now blog yesterday applauds Chris Ormes, chieftain of United Steel Workers (USW/AFL-CIO) Local 1241 in Bardstown, Ky., for his relentless opposition to enactment of a Right to Work law in the Bluegrass State. (See the link above the photo.)
Recently, Ormes learned that the local Republican Women’s Committee (RWC) had invited grass-roots Right to Work activist Alan Blincoe to speak at a meeting. Polite to a fault, the group gave Ormes and two other USW union operatives an opportunity to respond to Blincoe’s presentation after they showed up at the meeting.
Unfortunately, all Ormes apparently had to offer were misleading claims and flat-out falsehoods.
He smeared unionized workers who believe they are hurt, economically and/or in other ways, by having a particular union act as their “exclusive” bargaining agent with their employer over pay, benefit, and work-rule issues as “freeloaders.” But the fact is, as even Harvard economist Richard Freeman, arguably the leading academic apologist for forced unionism in the U.S., once openly acknowledged, union officials are “very successful in removing performance judgments as a factor in determining individual workers’ pay.” Effectively, that means employees who are especially good at their jobs and/or especially hard-working routinely get paid less, not more, as a result of being subject to union control.
Such employees, as well as employees who strongly disagree with Big Labor stands on political and ideological issues and therefore don’t want to give a union any of their money, are not “freeloaders” or “free riders” — rather, they are forced passengers. Ormes twisted the truth by failing to account for facts that even knowledgeable defenders of compulsory unionism like Freeman recognize.
Ormes also told his hosts, according to his recap for the AFL-CIO, that Right to Work laws are “bad for economies.” In reality, federal data show that, from 2002 to 2012, inflation-adjusted private-sector employee compensation grew nearly three times as much in Right to Work states as a group than in forced-unionism states as a group or in Kentucky specifically.
Shunting aside growth data that directly contradict his claim, Ormes sought to back it up by asserting that workers make less in Right to Work than in forced-unionism states.
Not surprisingly, he ignored the undisputed fact that housing, food, health care, transportation, and other necessities are on average substantially more costly in forced-unionism than in Right to Work states. In fact, according to a recent National Institute for Labor Relations Research analysis of cost-of-living data calculated and published by the non-partisan Missouri Research and Information Center (MERIC), in 2012 it was roughly 20% more expensive, on average, to live in a forced-unionism state than to live in a Right to Work state.
When interstate cost-of-living differences are accounted for with the help of MERIC’s index, 2011 wage-and-salary disbursements per private-sector wage/salary employee in Right to Work states were $46,886, roughly $1400 higher than the forced-unionism state average and roughly $4000 higher than in Kentucky alone.
Experience and common sense both tell us that what matters most to workers is what their paychecks will buy, not the nominal amount that appears on their paychecks. And anyone with any knowledge of America knows that forced-unionism dominions like New York, New Jersey, the New England states, California, Alaska and Hawaii are far more expensive to live in than the mostly Right to Work Southern, Great Plains, and Rocky Mountain States. Ormes is in all likelihood aware of these facts himself, and simply hopes the people he is propagandizing on the compulsory-unionism issue will be unaware of them or fail to see how they relate to what he is saying.
Union bosses like Ormes may well succeed in fooling some of the people, some of the time, but seven decades of anti-Right to Work propaganda have failed utterly to undercut overall public support, in Kentucky and nationwide, for the principle that no one should be forced to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. Try as they might, the AFL-CIO’s “rapid response teams” are highly unlikely ever to succeed in swaying the vast majority of ordinary Americans from their belief that unionism should be voluntary.