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Would Tim Kaine protect the right to work?
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ARAFT of organizations, including CNBC and, most recently, Site Selection magazine, have cited Virginia as the top business-friendly state. One reason for Virginia's solid economy is its right-to-work law, the bane of Big Labor. Would senatorial candidate Tim Kaine be a friend or foe of right-to-work if he were elected?
President Obama, speaking to an AFL-CIO meeting in Washington last Monday, slammed right-to-work laws, saying, "Right-to-work means the right to work for less and less." He claimed, a bit broadly, that "Right-to-work advocates want to end collective-bargaining rights." Mr. Kaine, who also spoke at the meeting, avoided the issue, but made it clear that he's counting on union support in his bid to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate. "I have always considered myself a friend of and partner with labor," he told the union leaders.
There's nothing wrong with giving and receiving union support. In many industries, labor organizations play a vital role in maintaining the balance of power between companies and workers. But right-to-work laws in Virginia, contrary to the president's contentions, don't prohibit collective bargaining; they simply ban unions from requiring membership as a condition of employment. That does limit the power of the unions, something neither they nor their joined-at-the-hip Democratic partners like. But what's best for the people, not the power brokers?
Chief Executive magazine's top 10 states for business are all right-to-work states. Economists, including Ohio University's Richard Vedder and Harvard's Robert Barro, say that economies in right-to-work states grow faster, have higher employment, and attract more inward migration than in other states. U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data show that private employment in the top 10 right-to-work states increased 10 percent between 2000 and 2010, whereas in 10 compulsory union states, the growth rate was a poor 1.9 percent.
Politics, it seems, has taken precedent over prosperity in Mr. Obama's agenda. Indeed, his National Labor Relations Board aggressively pursued Boeing when the big aerospace firm built a plant in right-to-work South Carolina and workers there elected not to unionize. On that issue, last year a spokeswoman for Mr. Kaine said that "Governor Kaine relied on [the right-to-work] law to get many businesses to locate in Virginia during his time as governor, earning Virginia the distinction of the 'Best State for Business' all four years of his term."