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President Ken Hall Op-Ed 11/4/18
Posted On: Nov 05, 2018

Ken Hall: Remember right-to-work when voting 

During the recent fight regarding right-to-work laws in West Virginia, the Republican-controlled Legislature requested and funded a flawed West Virginia University study extolling the virtues of right-to-work policies. The partisan study, headed by John Deskins, projected huge wins for West Virginia in terms of job growth, new industry and an influx of companies waiting to set up businesses here after the laws came into effect.

The Deskins study concluded that right-to-work policies lead to job growth. But our unemployment rate has actually increased. Before the law passed, for the time period of April through August 2017, the unemployment rate was between 5 and 5.2 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the same time period in 2018, which is after the law went into effect, the unemployment rate was between 5.3 and 5.4 percent.

During a hearing in front of Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and the rest of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I testified that right to work is wrong for West Virginia. As I predicted in my testimony, right-to-work legislation has not resulted in the bogus claims of growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, our unemployment rate has increased since the law went into effect.

The Republicans promised annual employment growth of 1.26 percent because of right to work. In reality, the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research says that actual employment growth since right to work was enacted has been only 0.4 percent.

Where are all of those companies that Carmichael and John Deskins claimed were “waiting at the border” to do business in West Virginia as soon as the law went into effect? Where are all of the new private sector jobs that they claimed those companies would create? A recent survey by 24/7 Wall Street ranks our state as the poorest state in the country, with a poverty rate of 19.1 percent. That is certainly not something our Legislature can be proud of.

Not all of the news is bad, though. It is estimated that the new pipeline project will create nearly 10,000 jobs. Most of these jobs are union jobs with collective bargaining agreements that provide excellent wages, benefits and working conditions for the hardworking people of West Virginia.

The Republican Legislature cannot take credit for these good union jobs, though. The jobs didn’t materialize because of right-to-work laws. The companies working on these projects rely on unions to provide a well-trained, skilled and stable workforce. Carmichael and his Republican colleagues should be ashamed of themselves for enacting laws that weaken the very organizations key to creating new jobs. The fact is that unions provide the opportunity for prosperity. Right-to-work laws do not.

To recap: Carmichael and his Republican colleagues commissioned a flawed study to support their arguments and then used that flawed study to push through legislation that does the opposite of what they promised. Since enacting right to work, our economy has taken a hit, the unemployment rate is up and the jobs that they promised never materialized. Their deceit need to be remembered on election day.

Ken Hall is president of the Teamsters Local 175, in South Charleston and general secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

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