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Does Right-To-Work Policies Actually Undermine Skilled Labor?

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After labor leader Sean McGarvey wrote Monday that right-to-work policies undermine skilled labor, one expert challenged the notion in a detailed response.

The policy, which has been enacted in 25 states, outlaws mandatory union dues as a condition of employment. McGarvey, president of the North America’s Building Trades Unions, warns the policy undermines the ability of business owners to get skilled labor. The union is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

“Gov. Scott Walker may think that his so-called right-to-work law will give employers ‘another compelling reason to consider expanding or moving their business to Wisconsin’” McGarvey declared in an opinion piece for The New York Times. “Unfortunately, they may not be able to find any skilled workers to staff their businesses.”

“Labor unions spend billions of dollars training the next generation of skilled tradespeople,” McGarvey continued. “My organization, North America’s Building Trades Unions, spends more than $1 billion a year on skilled-craft work force development in conjunction with our employer partners. But don’t take my word for it.”

“Look at the construction boom taking place in the right-to-work South,” he concluded. “Companies and whole industries from Texas to Florida are having to look North for the skilled craft professionals needed to get these projects done safely and efficiently, because the training infrastructure in that region has gone away.”

Patrick Semmens, the vice president for public information at the center-right National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, challenged those claims.

“First off, it’s nice to see a top boss from the AFL-CIO admitting that right-to-work states are creating so many jobs that workers in forced dues state are moving to right to work states for employment,” Semmens told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This trend has been going on for many years but usually union officials try to ignore it.”

“As for the union training programs, union officials commonly throw this out as supposed justification for granting them the power to have a worker fired just for not paying union dues, but it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny,” Semmens continued. “Union-run, and in many cases taxpayer-subsidized, training programs are just one way for workers to obtain training, but nothing about that undermines the case for giving every individual worker the freedom to choose to support or not to support a union with their hard earned money.”

“Right-to-work doesn’t stop any worker from joining a union nor does it stop a union from helping to provide its voluntary members with additional training,” Semmens went on to detail. “There are construction unions — and unionized construction companies — in both right-to-work and non-right-to-work states. If anything, if unions in right-to-work states can really provide good training to voluntary union members, that should only help them grow their membership.”

“This is yet another example of union officials ignoring what right-to-work actually does, which is protect worker choice. The right to work question isn’t ‘union or non-union?’ but rather ‘coercive unionism or voluntary association?’” he concluded. “That’s why Americans so overwhelmingly support right to work.”

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