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DAVID ROSMAN: Right to Work needs parity; MoDOT needs more money

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:52 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I just love the way our conservative friends dress up and name a bill to sound like it is something good.

The Right to Work bill is a prime example. We have that right to work now, and we can choose to work in a union or non-union facility as we wish, if we can find a job.

However, if someone is receiving the benefits of the union — higher wages, vacation and sick leave, etc. — then one should have to pay the union dues. Remember the adage: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

What most people in the liberal camps argue is that the legislation did not originate in Missouri but is part of a bigger plan to eliminate organized labor by the neo-conservatives. The RTW proposal was originally written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

The council's mission is simple: “To advance limited government, free markets and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.”

The problem is that ALEC is not a “nonpartisan” organization but one that fits into the neo-conservative camp. The libertarians of the right-wingers.

Unlike other liberals, I am not so concerned that ALEC is an out-of-state organization trying to influence Missouri politics. Liberals and progressives have done the same over the years. Maybe not so blatantly, but they have.

There is something else about the ALEC bill that is more interesting; the bill wants to restrict how unions can spend their money on political campaigns.

This flies in the face of at least two recent Supreme Court decisions — that corporations are “people” and that money is free speech. Unions are nonprofit corporations and should fit within the same guidelines as profit corporations. Spend as much as you wish without first appealing to the shareholders or the membership.

This would be the equivalent of saying that employees of Hobby Lobby who disagree with the owners’ political position on birth control and the Affordable Care Act would be able to limit the profits used by the owners to pay for their lawsuits. That will never happen so why require it from the rank and file?

This is a case of “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Let ALEC lobby for conservative positions and provide the legislators with sample legislation. Then allow the unions and liberal and progressive organizations do the same.

This is the way politics should be fought — fairly and openly and not vilifying the opponents with restrictive legislation.

The Show-Me Institute is another conservative political lobbying organization that liberals love to bash. This should not always be the case.

A recent commentary by policy researcher Joseph Miller concerned a proposed 1 percent sales tax to help finance the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Usually, I would disagree with the institute’s positions, but Miller provides a solution that is fair and workable, if it were not for the political ramifications. Miller suggests that instead of increasing the sales tax, we should “(r)aise the gas tax to adjust for inflation and implement tolls on major highways.

I am not big on the toll road idea. As an East Coaster, I despised paying tolls in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida. However a “user tax” is a broader and more reasonable way to focus specific money for our infrastructure maintenance and expansion.

Columbians specifically know the problems with I-70. We know how overcrowded the highway has become and how poor the roadbeds are. We know that I-70 needs to be widened through our city limits, that rights-of-way need to be purchased and construction begun sooner than later.

But Miller’s estimate of $300 million in increased funding is not enough to improve a highway system designed to carry half of the vehicles that now travel its length. Three hundred million dollars is still $160 million short to just maintain the current system.

Instead of adjusting for inflation, why not have a new gas tax, limited to and renewable for, let’s say, 10 years, to bring MoDOT’s budget to a level where they can continue to improve our interstates, as well as the state and federal highways for which they are charged?

If MoDOT can show us road improvements, I believe the drivers who use Missouri highways and byways would not mind paying a few cents more per gallon.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.


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Comments

John Schultz April 16, 2014 | 11:11 a.m.

Kudos to Dave for not bashing ALEC and the Show-Me Institute just because of who they are or who funds them. Other liberals and progressives would do well to argue against proposals instead of people.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 16, 2014 | 12:47 p.m.

"...no such thing as a free lunch." Very true, but too bad, so sad, that gets forgotten when you are discussing some of YOUR pet programs. The saying holds for ALL programs: don't pick and choose.

The proposed law is an obvious attempt to "bust" closed shops. I have experience with closed shops, in this country, Canada, Argentina, etc. I hope no one will have a stroke on reading this, but I don't have a problem with closed shops. Right to work is fine in principle, but IF management-labor relations are cordial I'd just as soon work in a closed shop.

In a typical closed shop, someone like me (as I was before I quit working at age 75) can't do any physical work in the shop that can be done by workers in the bargaing unit. NO PROBLEM! I'd show them what needs to be done, stand there to see that was done, and a pipefitter could have at it and bust HIS knuckles if a wrench slips. I was paid the same for just standing there. There's no way in hell I'd do pipe fitting or electrical work in an open shop either.

If you interview working engineers who graduated from either MU or MS&T and do factory work they will probably tell you what I just have.

Also, I have less upper body strength than most adult American males, so I'll let union guys do any lifting.

You live in a unionized state; I live (now) in a right to work state, but almost all the big shops here are unionized, mainly United Auto Workers. Iowans are notorious, unionized or not, for working for a bit lower than national wage (for whatever the job might be), but there's less unemployment. You might ponder that.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote April 16, 2014 | 9:54 p.m.

@JS,
ALEC legislation merits critical examination. These legislative initiatives are presented as economic stimuli by its supporters, however it is simply boiler plate right-wing policies that favor large corporations at the expense of the labor class. States that hew to ALEC's preferred legislative policy preferences perform significantly worse than other states in a wide variety of economic measures: http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/2012doc...
Who are the rubes...the policy makers advancing prepackaged legislation assembled in Washington by corporate lobbyists or the low information voters electing these politicians who are bought and paid for by big business?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 17, 2014 | 12:47 a.m.

I just bought a Ford hybrid on the Focus platform, there's also a hybrid based on the Fusion. I'm confident this will be the last car I'll own, because I'd had the previous one for 9 years and usually have them almost that long.

I do think there is a case for raising the gas tax - particularly since I now drive a car that gets TWICE the fuel mileage of the one I traded in. :) If some adjustment isn't made in the gas tax there will be further deterioraton of the highway net and an even larger gas tax will be required later on. Remember the TV commercial where the guy says you can pay me now or you can pay me later? Seems today some Americans prefer NEVER to pay, and I'm not talking about gasoline taxes.

As for toll roads, Oklahoma is a state that has had them for a long time. Their Indian Nations Turnpike was for years a monetary loser, although it may be in the black today. One could drive for several miles during the daytime without seeing another vehicle; nights were almost scary for lack of traffic. I doubt the Jersey Turnpike currently has that problem. :)

As to right to work, everyone DOES understand this issue was previously tested in Missouri, and it failed. I'd expect it to fail again. Should it pass the legislature it's likely to be a vetoed.

States usually have what they have because the majority of their citizens prefer it that way. Our nation is called the United StateS of America, not the United StatE of America. Note the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 17, 2014 | 8:09 a.m.

PS: Correction to post directly above. Sorry, I forgot there are only nine amendments constituting the Bill of Rights, the tenth one has been cancelled, possibly because it offends the political sensibilities of certain persons. Maybe it's like some hotels, where they skip having a thirteenth numbered floor.

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates April 17, 2014 | 7:22 p.m.

There are a lot of folks very happy to have decent jobs in what might be called "right to work" SE states because industry chose to move there, and continues to do so. (BMW, Toyota, Boeing, GE, Hundai, et.,etc.) Of course Boeing had to pay tribute to the union in Seattle to build in South Carolina. As Ellis states about Iowa, they may take a little less; but, they have career jobs. AS for the highways, didn't we pass a multi-billion dollar bond (or something similar) fifteen or so years ago, and DOT spent the money on something else, like a new HP headquarters, administrative buildings, airplane, etc., then say they were out of money, again? But, of course it will be a tax increase as that is the only way governments incapable of operating within a budget know how to fix things.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 18, 2014 | 7:52 a.m.

Yes, he's back again. As I have stated before, I have considerable respect for some unions, particularly United Mine Workers and United Steel Workers. Those guys DO face danger, even under the best of conditions and using the latest safety gear. I've in mind some people who I'd dearly enjoy putting in an underground mine or on a (steel) pouring platform or in a continuous (steel) casting shop - to experience what work is about.

As I've hinted in the previous paragraph, things are NOT just about the money. With modern mining equipment the miners still face risks, but much backbreaking work has been removed. Who invests in that equipment? It's not the government.

On the other hand, while I don't pretend to know much about white collar unions I suppose someone could be injured by getting his tie caught in a paper shredder.

(Report Comment)

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