Maine Legislators Try to Bring Right-to-Work to the Northeast

This month, Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work (RTW) state, meaning workers cannot be forced to pay dues to a union which they may disagree with.

As more and more states that were formally union strongholds (Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin) enact RTW, other state legislatures are feeling the political winds change and are looking to enact similar laws where it was not thought possible before. Maine is such a state and could become the first state in the Northeast to pass RTW and gain a competitive advantage over its neighbors.

In Maine, L.D. 489 would free workers in the private and public-sector from paying union dues as a condition of employment. If a union violates the prospective RTW bill, it is considered “a Class D crime and is also subject to civil damages and injunctive relief.”

The sponsor, Rep. Lawrence Lockman of Amherst, says the bill is about economic growth, “The commerce department has stats showing that families in right-to-work states, on average, have $2,000 more in disposable income.”

Other research shows that if Maine has enacted RTW about 30 years ago, workers would be making an estimated $2,662 more. In addition, “jobs are created at twice the pace in right-to-work states.”

Aside from the economic benefits and enhanced worker freedom, a Gallup poll conducted last August shows that RTW is popular. In total, 71 percent of American said they would vote for a RTW law. More importantly, the poll finds RTW should be legislation that is a bipartisan issue.

Gallup said support for right-to-work laws includes a surprising 65 percent of Democrats, a stalwart 74 percent of Republicans and a whopping 77 percent of independents.”

Despite the fact that a majority of Democrats support RTW, according to Gallup, Maine Democratic lawmakers are poised to block the bill’s passage.

Maine State Senator John Patrick, also a union member, trots out the tired class warfare rhetoric in defense of forced union dues, “The middle class was formed by unions bringing wages, benefits and working conditions, and what are we asking to do now? Go back to the 20s?… That’s the wrong way to go. That does not lift up anyone except for the 1 percent and corporations.”

But research contradicts Patrick’s statement. In RTW states, wages rise and jobs are created at a faster rate. This is because unionization increases “the natural rate of unemployment, thus imposing a deadweight loss of economic output on the economy.” Competitive Enterprise Institute research finds, in Maine, the presence of unions have contributed to a loss of $4,822 in real per capita income.

There is only one reason progressives aggressively fight against RTW and that is because labor union campaign contributions almost exclusively support progressives. With union membership at an all-time low, unions and progressives cannot afford to give more workers choice.

And that is why RTW opponents are fighting a losing battle. The public understands that RTW is about increasing worker freedom and improving sluggish state economies, not union busting or corporate greed.