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“Scott Walker Fails the Test of Common Decency”

… or at least that’s what protection racket leader Randi Weingarten wants us to believe.

My goodness! From the response in certain quarters, you would think that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker breached national security – and then maybe tried to lie his way out of it! But no. All he did last week was sign off on right-to-work (RTW) legislation that lets workers in the Badger State choose whether or not they want to join and pay dues to a union as a condition of employment..

That’s it. Nothing more. Unions are not outlawed. Union members don’t have to ride on the back of the bus. Unions – heaven forbid – still don’t have to pay a penny in income tax. All they have to do is compete for members just like every other privately run organization in the country. If you buy a gun, you are not forced to pay money to the NRA. If you take out a book from the library, you don’t have to pay tribute to the American Library Association. So why in God’s name should a worker be forced to pay a union in order to be employed in certain fields?

I really can’t answer that question, and after reading condemnations from all the usual suspects, I’m still clueless. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten came out with a press release after the Wisconsin right-to-work law was passed that transcended hysteria. In addition to claiming that Walker fails “the test of common decency,” she lectured,

By his actions and statements, Walker has revealed that his plan to win the Republican nomination is a willingness to say and do anything to attack and tear down workers.

If you want a strong middle class, then you can’t take out the unions that built it. If you want higher wages, then workers need a voice.

The workers of Wisconsin are resilient. They will continue to fight back and wait until they have a governor who will work with them, not work to break them.

Again, no workers are being attacked and torn down. No one is refusing them their union. No one is trying to break them. (A few cynical types, but not me of course, have suggested that the real reason Weingarten is upset is because fewer union members would result in less money for the union. And a lower membership rate could mean that her $543,679 income, well within the top one percent, is in jeopardy.)

Other responses to Walker have been just as over-the-top. Marc Perrone, president of the 1.3 million strong United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, weighed in.

The truth is by standing against hard-working families, Gov. Scott Walker should be ashamed, but we know he is not. He has chosen to pursue a radical agenda that willingly ignores that this law will devastate countless workers and their families. Make no mistake, this law gives irresponsible corporations, let alone politicians, the right to exploit and mistreat countless men and women all across Wisconsin.

This barely coherent statement is pathetic, as is the notion that countless men and women are now going to be “mistreated.” In fact, since Michigan went RTW, the reverse is true. There, in less than two years of worker freedom, employment has grown 3.3 percent and earnings have increased 5.4 percent, both above the national average.

Even President Obama put on his pity-party pajamas and intoned,

… it’s inexcusable that, over the past several years … there’s been a sustained, coordinated assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government.

So even as its governor claims victory over working Americans, I’d encourage him to try and score a victory for working Americans — by taking meaningful action to raise their wages and offer them the security of paid leave.

That’s how you give hard working middle-class families a fair shot in the new economy — not by stripping their rights in the workplace, but by offering them all the tools they need to get ahead.

Perhaps the president would be advised to examine the facts instead of engaging in demagoguery. James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation, recently pointed out that in addition to protecting a worker’s freedom, right-to-work laws attract new businesses and jobs (unionized firms were 10 percent more likely to go out of business within seven years). Also, if a business is going to relocate, RTW laws are a major selling point. Also as I wrote last month, the Illinois Policy Institute’s Paul Kersey reports that RTW states are much stronger economically than their forced-dues counterparts:

  • From 2002 to 2012, states with right-to-work laws saw a 7.2 percent increase in payroll employment, compared to a 2 percent increase in other states.
  • As of September 2014, right-to-work states had an average unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, compared to 6 percent in non-right-to-work states.
  • From 2000 to 2010, right-to-work states saw population growth that was twice as fast as that in other states (13.6 percent compared to 7.3 percent).
  • Median wages in right-to-work states appear $4,345 lower than in other states. However, once you take into account cost of living and local taxes, right-to-work state wages rise. In fact, the cost of living is 16.6 percent higher in states without right-to-work laws.
  • Right-to-work economies grew by 62 percent from 2002 to 2012, compared to just 46.5 percent growth in other states.

And for those who insist that this is a “big business vs. the little guy” battle, a recent Gallup Poll found that 71 percent of Americans favor RTW laws with just 22 percent opposing. Gallup also found that 82 percent agree that “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will.”

Again – and this cannot be stressed enough – RTW legislation is not about outlawing unions, but rather freeing employees from a burden they never bargained for. Scott Manley, vice president of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, put it best. “If you don’t support right-to-work, you support the proposition that workers should be fired if they don’t pay dues to a union,” he said.

Without RTW, workers have to pay up or else. When the Mafia engaged in this kind of activity, it was called a protection or extortion racket. Unions try to sanitize their operation by claiming that workers are paying their “fair share.” But in fact, it’s nothing more than a shakedown, and I congratulate Scott Walker and his legislature for liberating workers and enabling Wisconsin to become the 25th RTW state. We are officially half-way there.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Fifty States of Right-to-Work?

Elected officials, the courts and John Q. Public are supporting worker freedom these days; teachers unions and other public employee unions are on the run.

Last Monday, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner issued an executive order that, if it stands, will absolve state workers from paying forced dues to a union. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Rauner declared that Illinois’s contracts with public unions “violate the First Amendment by forcing workers to associate with the union against their will.” Rauner instructed all state agencies to keep the workers’ dues in escrow, pending the outcome of a federal court lawsuit that he filed the same day.

Needless to say, the unions and their friends in Springfield aren’t doing cartwheels over his right-to-work (RTW) directive. Even prior to the order, the teachers unions had targeted the recently elected governor. Two weeks ago, Chicago Teachers Union boss Karen Lewis attacked Rauner, accusing him of being (Wisconsin governor) “Scott Walker on steroids.” Also before the announcement, local teacher union lobbyist Matthew Johansson declared that the governor is trying to “destroy us.”

After the announcement, Illinois Education Association president Cinda Klickna said that the attack on “fair share is extremely serious and will be monitored very carefully.” She added, “This attack is clearly intended to weaken the unions that fight for the middle class and for the students who attend our schools. We can’t let that happen.” The Illinois Federation of Teachers referred to the action as a “blatant abuse of power.”

The reality – beyond the union harrumphing and all-around hysteria – is this: In 26 states and D.C., workers are forced to pay unions as a condition of employment. The unions call this “fair share” because they say all workers benefit from their collective bargaining efforts. But if a worker doesn’t want to be part of the collective, he/she still must belong because the union demands monopoly status; a worker is not allowed to bargain on his/her own or hire another party to do so.

Hence RTW is quite simply an individual-rights issue. The workers the unions refer to as “free riders” are really “forced riders.” If you were going from Point A to Point B and wanted to walk, how would you feel if someone told you that you had to take the bus … and, of course, pay for the ride to boot?

Very importantly, not only does RTW liberate workers, it has many other far-reaching benefits. After Michigan became a RTW state in 2012, the West Michigan Policy Forum reported, “… of the 10 states with the highest rate of personal income growth, eight have right-to-work laws. Those numbers are driving a net migration from forced union states: Between 2000 and 2010, five million people moved to right-to-work states from compulsory union states.”

Also, in a new economic profile, the Illinois Policy Institute’s Paul Kersey reports that RTW states are much stronger economically than their forced-dues counterparts:

  • From 2002 to 2012, states with right-to-work laws saw a 7.2 percent increase in payroll employment, compared to a 2 percent increase in other states.
  • As of September 2014, right-to-work states had an average unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, compared to 6 percent in non-right-to-work states.
  • From 2000 to 2010, right-to-work states saw population growth that was twice as fast as that in other states (13.6 percent compared to 7.3 percent).
  • Median wages in right-to-work states appear $4,345 lower than in other states. However, once you take into account cost of living and local taxes, right-to-work state wages rise. In fact, the cost of living is 16.6 percent higher in states without right-to-work laws.
  • Right-to-work economies grew by 62 percent from 2002 to 2012, compared to just 46.5 percent growth in other states.

Much to the unions’ consternation, the RTW movement is picking up momentum across the country. Politico’s Brian Mahoney reports that legislation has been introduced in New Mexico, Missouri, West Virginia and Kentucky.

The bills have already cleared committee hurdles in New Mexico and Missouri. All but the Missouri bill were introduced by Republicans; in Missouri, the measure was introduced by state Rep. Courtney Curtis, a Democrat and an African-American who would limit right to work to the construction industry to combat what he sees as bias in minority contracting. In Kentucky, right-to-work ordinances have been passed in five counties, though it isn’t clear federal law allows the adoption of right to work anywhere except at the state and territorial level. Legal challenges are already underway.

Additionally, the American people are strong supporters of RTW laws. In a poll conducted right before Labor Day last year, Gallup found that 82 percent of Americans agree that “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will.” Also, as Mike Antonucci reports, by a 2-1 margin – 64 to 32 percent – “Americans disagree that workers should ‘have to join and pay dues to give the union financial support’ because ‘all workers share the gains won by the labor union.’”

Much of the recent RTW activity has been undoubtedly spurred by the June 2014 Harris v Quinn Supreme Court decision, in which SCOTUS agreed with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, ruling that homecare workers in Illinois could not be forced to join the Service Employees International Union.

And in the legal on-deck circle is Friedrichs et al v CTA, which is on a path to reach SCOTUS within a few months. This litigation has ten teachers and the Christian Educators Association International – a union alternative – taking on the California Teachers Association with a lawsuit aimed squarely at California’s “agency-shop” law, which forces teachers to pay dues for collective bargaining activities. The Center for Individual Rights is representing the teachers, with help from Jones Day, an international law firm.

So, let’s see – RTW is gaining favor in state houses, the courts and with the citizenry. And please keep in mind, no one is talking about outlawing unions; RTW is simply about making them voluntary associations, just like every other organization in the U.S. Really nothing controversial, unless you are a wolf that preys on workers … all the while pretending to be a shepherd.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

SEIU Motives and Tactics Remain the Same

Times have changed, but the SEIU’s motives, and the means and tactics used to accomplish these motives — as documented in The Devil at Our Doorstep — remain the same. The SEIU’s ultimate goal is to achieve its agenda of destroying America’s Free Enterprise system and replacing it with statism. As seen in recent actions across the country, it is apparent the SEIU is still intent on fundamentally changing America, as is its cohort in the White House, President Obama. The President continues to create a welfare state and to attempt to overwhelm the American economy. In his State of the Union Address, Obama’s Middle-Class Pitch made it very clear, his agenda is to continue to pit Americans against each other (see Overwhelming the System). Together, the President and the SEIU are intent on collapsing the American system. They fervently believe that their Cloward-Piven Strategy Is Working, and that such strategy is what is best for America and the rest of the world.

While the President continues to foment racial divide through federal investigations in Ferguson and New York the SEIU’s Insidious Tentacles are involved behind the scenes in fostering these unrests so Eric Holder and the President, with the assistance of Al Sharpton, can paint America as a racist country. The stories below found in Phil Wilson’s LRI Publication reveal tactics employed behind the scenes by the SEIU to facilitate the administration’s agenda of Divide and Conquer.

First, with respect to New York: Robert Murray, a top 32BJ SEIU organizer earning a six-figure salary, has been charged with two felony counts and three misdemeanors, including resisting arrest, inciting to riot, and obstruction of governmental administration, for his participation in the December 13 assault of two NYPD police officers on the Brooklyn Bridge.

 A week after the incident, Murray turned himself into the police. The union has reportedly put Murray on unpaid leave until the matter is settled. Elaine Kim, a spokesperson for the 32BJ SEIU, said “The union did not organize any official contingent to participate in the protests.”

 While that may be true, it is also true that the SEIU has a history of organizing protests without “officially” putting their name on it. Additionally, Mayor Bill de Blasio met with the group behind last month’s New York City protests. Guess where the meeting was held? 1199 SEIU headquarters.

Second, the SEIU has been involved in Ferguson: President Obama is utilizing the tried and true labor boss tactic of misdirection to take Americans’ “eyes off the ball” regarding his Amnesty Order and, instead, has been directing attention to the recent events in Ferguson and New York City, as witnessed in a recent interview on BET where he said Racism is “Deeply Rooted” in U.S. Society.

The eruption of violence following the Michael Brown decision in Missouri and the Eric Garner decision in New York were blamed by the media on “outside agitators,” people who descended on the scene to generate unrest, and publicity. But just who were these hoodlums? According to Bill O’Reilly, the SEIU was front and center in the escapade.

Knowing that the connections would be made sooner or later, SEIU is attempting to jump on the bandwagon calling for “racial justice” in relation to the two incidents. Not surprisingly, many of the “Black Lives Matter” protestors have also been actively protesting for the Fight for $15 movement, another protest project spearheaded by SEIU behind the scenes. Perhaps SEIU should be responsible to pay the bills for all of the property destroyed in the SEIU-fomented unrest and violence.

Third, the President’s home state is providing payback and funds for the SEIU to basically nullify the freedom provided to home health care workers not to pay union dues by the U.S. Supreme Court. After the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn decision in October, the state of Illinois enacted a policy requiring home-based caregivers to attend “training sessions” led by SEIU. The state is using taxpayer money to pay the union as much as $2 million to conduct these meetings – most of which are spent with SEIU officials “telling caregivers they will lose all benefits, including health insurance and the Medicaid stipend that helps them care for their loved ones, should they opt out of paying union dues.” Illinois Policy Institute has responded by sending staff members to wait outside most of these meetings in order to inform caregivers that what SEIU is telling them is not the truth. SEIU, of course, complained to the state about Illinois Policy’s presence, creating some situations where staff members have been threatened with arrest.

Fourth, with respect to the President’s Amnesty program, as chronicled in DREAM Act, the Truth behind the Nightmare, the SEIU is being provided another payback in the form of potential future forced unionized workers as well as the opportunity to further create racial divide by giving them access to undocumented workers granted amnesty — The SEIU is taking advantage of President Obama’s recent executive order to give working visas to some 4 million immigrants. Their hope is that some of these people who have been too afraid to sign up in the past won’t be now.

There is no doubt the President and the SEIU are determined to fundamentally change the greatest country in the history of the world to impose their own view. America has provided more opportunity and increased the quality of life for more people, regardless of their background, than any country in history. Despite this, the President and the “same old” SEIU still believe they know best and are determined to destroy the American Free Enterprise system and impose statism upon this great country. Their true agenda is control of the American people.

*   *   *

David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Illinois Unemployment Exceeds California’s

The one state arguably more troubled than California is Illinois.

Unions, union sympathizers, socialists, and tax-hike proponents are strongly in control of both states. Is it any wonder  that perpetual economic difficulties and insurmountable pension underfundings face both states?

Via email, Ted Dabrowski at the Illinois Policy Institute writes …

 Unhappy Anniversary

Six months ago, Illinois overtook California to become the state with the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, behind only Nevada. It hasn’t budged since.

Last week’s release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics detailed yet another month of stalled unemployment numbers for Illinois. The state’s August unemployment rate remained at 9.2% — 1.9 percentage points above the national average, which fell to 7.3% in August.

Compared to its neighbors, Illinois fared even worse. The state’s unemployment rate is now a full 2 percentage points above its neighbors’ average, which fell to 7.2% from 7.3% one month earlier.

Illinois’ unemployment rate has remained above 9% since December of last year.

Illinois Unemployment Gap

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The number of unemployed Illinoisans also remains high, at 602,000. This is the third month in a row the number of unemployed has remained above 600,000.

Illinois’ most recent U-6 unemployment rate is 16.1%, meaning more than 1 million Illinoisans are unemployed or underemployed.

Five years after the end of the Great Recession, Illinois still has an unemployment rate nearly 5 percentage points higher than its pre-recession average and there are 147,000 fewer Illinoisans in the labor force compared to August 2007.

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The state is still missing 177,000 nonfarm payroll jobs compared to August 2007.

Six months of the second-highest unemployment rate is no anniversary to be proud of.

Ted Dabrowski

Inquiring minds should also take a look at Fiscal Crisis in Chicago: Pensions 31% Funded, Moody’s Downgrades Debt 3 Notches, Pension Liability is $61,000 Per Household; Mish’s Proposed Solutions

About the Author:  Mike Shedlock is the editor of the top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis, offering insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

 

 

Red – and I Do Mean Red – Herrings of the Left

June – Father’s Day, Flag Day, weddings … and loopy ideas on poverty.

Last September I wrote about those who believe that poverty causes ignorance and how we must “fix” poverty before we can fix education. I suggested that maybe, just maybe, a good education is the best antidote to poverty and that school choice is the best way to ensure a good education.

In the ensuing months, having heard little from the “povertists” – who are frequently of the socialist persuasion – I hoped that the lame poverty excuse had disappeared, but silly me. Like a disease that goes into remission but never actually disappears, it’s baaack. With a vengeance.

The pedantic, lifelong socialist Deborah Meier drearily proclaims in Education Week that poverty is the root of all our education woes.

Then there is David Sirota, who at one time was an aide to socialist congressman from Vermont (now socialist senator) Bernie Sanders. Sirota declares that school reformers “are full of it.” Then playing the poverty card, he asserts, “Poor schools underperform largely because of economic forces….” Sirota really outdoes himself in the last paragraph of his Salon.com screed, where he lectures us:

Reality, though, is finally catching up with the “reform” movement’s propaganda. With poverty and inequality intensifying, a conversation about the real problem is finally starting to happen. And the more education “reformers” try to distract from it, the more they will expose the fact that they aren’t driven by concern for kids but by the ugliest kind of greed the kind that feigns concerns for kids in order to pad the corporate bottom line.

David Berliner, a longtime povertist, education professor and, not surprisingly, winner of the National Education Association’s Friend of Education award, announces on the California Federation of Teachers website that there is no education crisis, but rather an “unequal economy.”

But just when the socialists’ monotonous rants are beginning to have a narcotizing effect, Karen Lewis comes to the rescue. Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, never misses an opportunity to be offensive. She was in fine form speaking at the City Club of Chicago last week, blaming the Windy City’s education woes on “rich white people.” Perhaps she had to stress “white people” because as an African-American union boss, Lewis has a yearly income of $157,594, which most Americans consider above the “rich” threshold. (Interestingly her second-in-command at CTU, Jesse Sharkey, a leading member of the revolutionary International Socialist Organization, makes “only” $111,762. In the socialist world, how can this disparity exist? And these two really need to have a talk with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, whose total income for 2011 was $560,549. Perhaps this is what Berliner meant when he referred to the “unequal economy.” But I digress….)

Despite the socialists’ tedious mantra, there are facts that disprove every claim they make. For example, charter schools are publicly funded but are much more independent than traditional public schools, and far more often than not, they do a better job of educating the poor. In Chicago’s charters (not unionized), where almost all the students are minority and below the poverty line, they easily outperform traditional public schools. The Illinois Policy Institute informs us that,

Charter school students, like other students in CPS, primarily come from low-income backgrounds (91 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch), represent mostly racial minorities (60 percent African-American, 35 percent Hispanic), and must overcome a range of challenges (9 percent English Language Learners, 12 percent special needs). They are not untouched by the violence plaguing many of the city’s neighborhoods. And, yet, despite all of these obstacles, they are succeeding.

In 2012, charter schools held the top nine spots for open-enrollment, non-selective public high schools in Chicago. Another charter school ended up in a three-way tie for tenth. The Noble Network of Charter Schools led the pack, with a total of nine schools in the top 10, one of which was included in the tie. The average ACT score for charter schools in the top 10 was 20.6, with Noble Network’s UIC College Prep campus scoring 21.9 – the highest-ever average at an open-enrollment, non-selective CPS high school.

Not only are charter schools outperforming their peers on the ACT, a comparison of Chicago’s top 10 charter high schools to the top 10 open-enrollment, non-selective, traditional public high schools shows that charter schools’ pace of improvement is significantly greater. Since 2007, top charter school scores have increased by 17 percent, while the top traditional schools have gained nearly 5 percent.

Where does Ms. Lewis stand on charters? She doesn’t consider them to be “real schools.” As Investor’s Business Daily reports,

Lewis is … no fan of charter schools, despite the fact Chicago’s charters regularly outperform their public school cousins. In 2012, nine of the top 10 performers were charter schools based on the ACT scores of their students.

Of course when you mention things like charter schools, liberals like Lewis say they get to cherry-pick their students. Yet some 60% of Chicago charter-school students are minorities and 35% are Hispanic.

Ninety-one percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Doesn’t sound like cherry-picking to us.

Also, as I wrote last month, more and more parents are favoring vouchers, whereby parents can choose to send their kid to a private school and the funding follows the child.

… the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released the results of a national survey in which mothers (and others) were asked how they viewed vouchers and other forms of school choice. The findings show that moms make up the demographic most likely to favor school vouchers:

… 66 percent of moms with school-age children support vouchers for all students to obtain the best education possible. Mothers with school-age children also have more confidence in private school settings than in traditional public schools.

How have vouchers fared where they have been instituted?

In April, Greg Forster, also of the Friedman Foundation, released the third in a series of reports on school choice which includes vouchers and, to a lesser extent, educational savings accounts and tax credit scholarships: “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice.” Just a few of the key findings:

  • Twelve empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. Of these, 11 find that choice improves student outcomes—six that all students benefit and five that some benefit and some are not affected. One study finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found a negative impact.
  • Eight empirical studies have examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of these, seven find that school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools. One finds no net effect on segregation from school choice. No empirical study has found that choice increases racial segregation.
  • Seven empirical studies have examined school choice’s impact on civic values and practices such as respect for the rights of others and civic knowledge. Of these, five find that school choice improves civic values and practices. Two find no visible impact from school choice. No empirical study has found that school choice has a negative impact on civic values and practices. (Emphasis added.)

What is the takeaway here?

Despite what the self-righteous socialists, teachers union leaders and their fellow travelers claim, competition works. When schools compete for students, education gets better. And getting a good education is paramount to getting out of poverty. Those who deny public education’s failings and use poverty as an excuse – no matter what their intentions might be – are working to keep the poor in their place and destroy children’s lives. Shame on them.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Battle for Right-to-Work is a marathon, not a sprint

Labor unions have a virtual lock on Illinois politics. Unionized government delivers services ever-less efficiently in rough proportion to its ever-increasing size. It promulgates taxes and regulations that stifle private sector growth. It’s impossible to break the unions’ grip on Illinois’ fiscal health.

Substitute “Michigan” for “Illinois” and one might have said the same thing about the Great Lake State a few years ago. Yet Michigan, the cradle of organized labor and national stronghold of its power, became the 24th state to pass a Right-to-Work law in December 2012.

How did this happen, and what does it mean for Illinois?

An Olympic champion gets the gold by winning the race just before medals are handed out. But that doesn’t explain everything that put the right runner with the right training in the right race at the right moment. It takes tons of heart, gallons of sweat, hundreds of good decisions and many years. Similarly, Michigan’s story of Right to Work is one of endurance and persistence.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is the Illinois Policy Institute’s Michigan counterpart. Mackinac suggested in 1992 that the state would be better off giving workers, not unions, the choice over whether to pay dues to hold a job. This was the first serious proposal for Right to Work by any organization with a statewide voice.

The silence in response was deafening.

Three years later, I asked a question in the state’s largest newspaper: “Should workers be compelled to join a labor union to hold their jobs?” The Right-to-Work idea began to make progress as the silence gave way to ridicule and attack.

Meanwhile, Mackinac wrote a library of studies and analyses of Right to Work. Its legislative testimony in 1999 raised the profile of Right to Work again. But unions responded with threats and attacks that cost Mackinac’s adjunct economist his executive-level job at a major Michigan institution.

Mackinac didn’t give up, but instead rallied others to the cause as its analysts continued studying and promoting Right to Work.

Whenever unionists picketed Mackinac events the public got a chance to compare Mackinac’s approach – reason, persuasion and choice – with the unions’ approach – threat, intimidation and compulsion.

Even in the early 2000s, lawmakers were nowhere near ready to pass Right to Work, but Mackinac made the impossible idea impossible to ignore. A 2006 Detroit Free Press poll showed 56 percent of likely voters supported Right to Work, an amazing development resulting from years of Mackinac-led study and outreach. The idea phase continued, but a political phase began as political and business leaders stopped asking Mackinac, “Why won’t you go away?” and quietly started asking each other, “How can we do this, and when?”

Serious work began on a Right-to-Work ballot measure strategy in 2007, but it was a false start. Then Republicans gained control of Michigan’s government and major labor reforms passed in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. Unions sought to amend Michigan’s Constitution in 2012 to give government union contracts power to trump state law. We knew if the people rejected the unions’ radical amendment soundly, the stage would be set for a legislative Right-to-Work strategy.

That’s exactly what happened. Labor reform allies worked furiously to beat the amendment and, behind the scenes, to tee up Right to Work. Then, in the waning days of the legislative session, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder publicly announced that Right to Work was “on his agenda.” Lawmakers introduced bills two days later and the governor signed them five days after that. What had once been impossible had become inevitable. A key political insider said, “Right to Work wouldn’t have been on the table if the Mackinac Center hadn’t put it there.”

Illinois isn’t Michigan and it shouldn’t try to replicate Michigan’s every move. But both states have scores of laws that heavily tilt government employment and spending in favor of union interests, and both states find organized labor’s political power to be the chief obstacle to their most promising fiscal reforms.

For Right to Work to move from impossible to inevitable in Illinois, reformers should focus first on the idea phase to create the environment for a future political phase. Starting with the political phase guarantees setbacks because lawmakers usually won’t stick their necks out for an idea the people won’t get behind. That’s why the Illinois Policy Institute is so critical. Like Mackinac, it understands the power of developing an idea in order to make it politically possible.

Not every impossible idea becomes reality, but strategies exist for transforming impossible ideas into reality. Illinois is becoming surrounded by states that are taking on unions to regain control of their fiscal destinies. Chances are it won’t take as long for the Illinois Policy Institute to make Illinois a Right-to-Work state as it took for Mackinac to win its victory.

About the Author:  Joseph Lehman lived in Illinois for more than 20 years and graduated from the University of Illinois. He was an engineer for Dow Chemical Co. and also served as vice president for communications at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. He is now president of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy. This article was originally published by the Illinois Policy Institute and is republished her with permission.

Illinois: Corporate Welfare State with a Unionized Government

Here’s an interesting email from John Tillman at the Illinois Policy Institute, a non-partisan watchdog of the ongoing mess in Illinois. Tillman’s source is an excellent article on Illinois Review written by Ben VanMetre, a Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Please consider a repost of Quinn’s Illinois: regulations and cronyism crush entrepreneurship by Ben VanMetre.

In Gov. Pat Quinn’s State of the State address, he said, “In our Illinois, small business means big business. Driving economic growth for small businesses requires doing all we can to make sure government is not in the way.”

Quinn is right. Illinois’ economic future depends on a vibrant economy where entrepreneurs can start and grow businesses, create jobs and compete.

Unfortunately, Quinn’s policy solutions contradict his rhetoric. Quinn has been fighting for more government involvement in business, not less.

Despite the fact that Illinois already has $9.3 billion in unpaid bills, in his State of the State address Quinn advocated more government involvement in job creation and business activity: spending for roads, bridges, construction, high-speed rail, water infrastructure, technology, manufacturing and clean energy. More money for government projects requires higher revenues – this leads to calls for higher taxes, on top of the state’s highly regulated business climate. These factors explain why Illinois has one of the least competitive economies in the nation.

Illinois ranked 45th in gross domestic product growth from 2000 to 2010. Illinois’ combined federal and state corporate income tax is the fourth-highest in the industrialized world. And entrepreneurship in Illinois consistently lags behind the rest of the nation.

Illinois’ exploding government debt is crowding out business investment. Need evidence? Illinois has been downgraded 11 times since Quinn took office. The state has the worst credit rating in the nation.

The driver of Illinois’ disastrous business climate is a government that embraces corporate welfare, and continually increases taxes and burdensome regulations.

Illinois can lead the nation in economic output and job creation. But it must start by balancing the state budget, reining back out-of-control spending and taking government handouts off the balance sheets of politically connected businesses.

The Problem in Illinois

Illinois is bought, controlled, and owned by public unions and politicians on the take from public unions.

The unions do not want reform, nor do they want reasonable budgets. They do want more handouts and higher taxes.

Taking control of government in Illinois will not be easy, even with a Republican governor.

The only way to treat unions is the way Chris Christie treated them in New Jersey and the way Scott Walker treated them in Wisconsin. Bear in mind, the Walker solution was only the tip of the iceberg of the five things that need to happen.

Five Recommended Solutions

  1. Scrapping of all public employee collective bargaining agreements
  2. National right-to-work laws
  3. Scrapping of Davis-Bacon and all prevailing wage laws
  4. End defined benefit plans for public employees
  5. Renegotiation of existing benefits in public defined benefit pension plans

Those recommendations would fix problems nationally, not just in Illinois.

Numbers 1-3 will bring down labor costs, not just for the state, but for every city and municipality in the state (an if implemented nationally, in every state). Numbers 4-5 are needed to solve massive pension underfunding.

Like the Illinois Policy Institute, I do not care if it’s a democrat or a republican that gets the job done, but I do care that it does get done.

Unfortunately, I fully expect the Illinois pension problem will not be solved until the fund is within a few years of running out of money. However, that may happen far sooner than anyone thinks.

Some plans may be broke by 2020 in my estimation. All it will take is another big decline in the stock market with the pension plans overweight the wrong areas.

About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.