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Right to work is freedom to choose

Federal labor law allows unions to force workers to support them as a condition of employment. To my mind, this is a clear violation of those workers’ First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly.

If a union wins an election in your workplace, you are not allowed to bargain directly with your employer. Only the union can do that. And you will be covered by the collective bargaining agreement whether you like it or not. You can also be forced to financially support the union whether you think the union is doing a good job or not.

Fortunately, there is a legal remedy to this forced unionization: right to work, or as some have called it, freedom to choose. What a great concept in our country, we can choose our own path!

Freedom to choose simply allows workers to opt out of union membership and dues without fear of losing their job if they decide that’s the path that works for them. Up until now, it’s state legislatures that have passed right-to-work laws. Thankfully, 28 states have now done so – including Missouri and Kentucky last year.

What’s interesting is a federal court recently ruled that counties and municipalities can pass their own right to work as local ordinances. In fact, 12 counties in Kentucky have passed such ordinances, which have withstood a substantial legal challenge from organized labor. In addition, the towns of Seaford, Del., and Lincolnshire, Ill., have passed their own ordinances.

In light of these developments, I have been happy to sponsor with my friend Commissioner Dave Heil a right-to-work ordinance for Sandoval County. The commission (voted to approve this in) January.

Why do we need this for our people? Quite simply, New Mexico competes for jobs with our neighbors in Arizona, Texas, Utah and Oklahoma. More often than not, we lose. And what do our neighbors have that we don’t?

All of those states are right to work. And they have the jobs, and we are left behind.

Many site selectors for companies looking at new areas for expansion tell us that right to work is pass/fail for those kinds of discussions. It may not guarantee that you’ll get that factory built or that company to relocate, but if you aren’t right to work, you’re not even in the mix. Our people deserve the opportunity to compete!

Union leaders will argue that right to work is an attack on unions. Not true. Workers under right to work are perfectly free to join and support unions. In fact, many right-to-work states have seen tremendous growth in union membership in recent years. For example, in 2014, right-to-work Tennessee experienced the highest union membership growth in the country.

And a recent study by Lloyd Corder of Carnegie-Mellon University found union members in right-to-work states report higher satisfaction with the performance of their union: “77 percent of union members in right-to-work states were satisfied with the working conditions of their contract, compared to 71 percent of those in (non-right-to-work) states.”

So right-to-work is good for unions, good for workers and good for businesses.

In conjunction with our $2.9 million economic development package, right to work will mean more jobs with better pay for our community, and just as importantly, more freedom.

It is time we move our county and state forward instead of being left behind.