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MO Newspaper: 'Right-to-Work' Would Ruin Apprenticeships, Lower Wages, Hamper Quality of Work

Baltimore Building Trades Apprenticeship

As the Missouri state legislature prepares to once more battle over “Right-to-Work”, sides are being taken, lines drawn. Letters inundate newspapers and media outlets supporting – and opposing – the divisive policy. Pervasive Republican thinking is that unions are a main cause of the nation’s economic problems and must be punished. Democrats want to give workers as loud a voice as possible in tough economic times.  Because of the stark polarity in the debate, “Right-to-Work” talking points are predictable and uninspired.

The Springfield News-Leader editorial board, however, bucked this trend this weekend when they highlighted a few subjects not often brought up in your traditional “Right-to-Work” ruckus. Their op-ed, "Right to Work is Bad for the State," delves into the damage it would cause to apprenticeship programs and the workers enrolled in them if “Right-to-Work” passes in Missouri:

Unions are not holding this state, its businesses or its employees hostage. With only about 9 percent of Missouri employees affiliated with a union, and with laws that already side with businesses in union contracts, unions are not responsible for impeding the state’s economic growth.

But unions can provide a positive impact on the quality of work done in our state and the wages paid to those who provide that labor.

One area where this is easily seen is the building trades. In fact, the Builders’ Association, which represents more than 900 commercial building companies in Missouri, both union and nonunion, testified before the House Workforce Development & Workplace Safety Committee in opposition to Right-to-Work efforts.

One of the association’s arguments — echoed by local union and contracting representatives — is about training programs offered to workers through labor unions. Trained and safety-certified workers make sure that the construction done in Missouri is high quality.

And those skilled workers are, in turn, paid a good wage and provided health care insurance and retirement programs.

Without unions — the goal of Right to Work — Missouri would lose the benefits of that training, insurance and retirement savings.

“In Right to Work, we lose that because the competition is for low wages,” Springfield contractor Jim Carson said.

Derick Barnes with the Laborers Local Union No. 663 in Clever pointed out that low wages mean a lower tax base. “It’s a ripple effect.”

Workers will go where the money is, which is why so many highly skilled tradesmen join unions to begin with: To be paid what they deserve, not what the race to the bottom allows the most unscrupulous of employers to glean from the system. Lose the unions and you lose the skilled workers, point blank, says the News-Leader:

The state is also likely to lose the workers who provide that high-quality construction. They will move on to other states where they can continue to enjoy union benefits, and they will take their skills, training and money with them.

In return, Missouri would have to turn to an untrained, underpaid workforce. We cannot expect the same quality work from them.

Read the rest here.

Go to MO State Page
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