This week, all eyes are on South Carolina as the Palmetto State votes on Saturday in the next Republican presidential primary contest. Jobs and the economy are rightly being debated by the entire political spectrum.
It’s not the first time in the past year that South Carolina has been center stage when it comes to jobs in a country struggling to get back on its feet. Last year, the Obama Administration took aim at Boeing when the Seattle-based company sought to build a new assembly plant in Charleston, South Carolina, in order to produce the 787 Dreamliner. Enter the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which filed a complaint against Boeing alleging that the company decided to build the plant in South Carolina out of retaliation for union strikes at its Washington state facilities.
At the center of the issue was the fact that South Carolina is one of 22 right-to-work states, meaning that workers there have the freedom to decide whether to join a union or not. Right-to-work laws block companies from firing workers for not paying union dues, thereby protecting employees’ right to work regardless of their support for unions. In the case of Boeing, the Obama Administration — by way of the NLRB — sought to prevent the company from making fundamental decisions about where to do business, all because it wanted to open a plant in a right-to-work state. (Ultimately, the NLRB dropped the case after union negotiators reached a deal that benefited their members in a union state.)
Big labor, of course, abhors right-to-work laws because they threaten unions’ ironclad grip on employees — along with the dues they are forced to pay and the resulting political buying power the unions amass. (By some estimates, unions spent some $400 million in the last presidential election.) However, right-to-work laws have positive effects for states where they are adopted — in short, they bring much-needed jobs and investment. James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation, explains:
Businesses want to know that, if they treat their workers well, unions will leave them alone. Right-to-work makes that more likely — and businesses notice. Studies show right-to-work laws are a major factor in business location decisions. It was no accident that Boeing built its new 787 assembly line in right-to-work South Carolina. Neither was it coincidence that most new auto plants have been built in right-to-work states. More investment means more jobs.
Consider two counties that border each other across a state line, one in a right-to-work state and the other not. These counties have similar economic conditions, similar demographics, and similar climates. But the county in the right-to-work state has an average of one-third more manufacturing jobs. Right-to-work laws encourage investment and job creation.
Not surprisingly, other states are looking to follow in South Carolina’s footsteps. Indiana’s legislature is debating whether to make its state right-to-work, and legislators in Maine and Michigan have introduced right-to-work bills. They undoubtedly see the benefit of making their states more competitive and freeing employees to make decisions about whether or not to support unions.
But that movement flies directly in the face of the Administration’s big labor agenda. Earlier this month, the President flagrantly ignored the Constitution by making three illegal appointments to the NLRB — an act that Heritage’s Edwin Meese III and Todd Gaziano described as a “tyrannical abuse of power.” Sherk explains that unions are looking to the NLRB to boost their ranks amid flagging support — just one in 10 nonunion workers wants to join a union.
Given unions’ decreasing power — and the political debt that is owed to them — it’s not surprising that the NLRB took aim at right-to-work South Carolina or that the President flouted the law in order to make pro-labor appointments. Instead of promoting job growth, the left is promoting its political allies. Meanwhile, America’s unemployed workers are suffering the consequences of a ruling class that is putting unions’ special interests ahead of laborers.