Heritage Looks at Indiana’s Push for Right-to-Work

More analysis on right-to-work and seperating fact from fiction from the Heritage Foundation’s blog, The Foundry:

Heritage’s James Sherk says the law is a common-sense solution for states wanting to create more job opportunities for workers.

Right-to-work laws reduce the financial benefit from organizing workplaces where unions have limited support. This makes unions less aggressive and encourages business investment, creating jobs. States can and should reduce unemployment by becoming right-to-work states.

Sherk’s analysis also found that right-to-work laws have little effect on wages, despite union claims to the contrary. Opponents of Indiana’s bill are making that argument a major issue in their campaign to defeat the effort.

While supporters in Indiana maintain their focus on the bill’s effect on job creation, there’s also a case to be made about the anti-American concept of forced unionization. Currently in Indiana, the government gives workers no choice. Their dues — 1 percent to 2 percent of wages — are given to union bosses, often to advocate for an agenda that workers might not support.

Passage of the bill in Indiana could boost efforts in other states. Last year New Hampshire lawmakers adopted a right-to-work bill, only to have it vetoed by the governor. The New York Times noted other campaigns in Maine, Michigan and Missouri.

EPA Actions a ‘Disgrace’

Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for this well-timed and well-written reaction to yesterday’s EPA announcement:

At an unusual gala ceremony on the release of a major new Environmental Protection Agency rule yesterday, chief Lisa Jackson called it "historic" and "a great victory." And she’s right: The rule may be the most expensive the agency has ever issued, and it represents the triumph of the Obama Administration’s green agenda over economic growth and job creation. Congratulations.

The so-called utility rule requires power plants to install "maximum achievable control technology" to reduce mercury emissions and other trace gases. But the true goal of the rule’s 1,117 pages is to harm coal-fired power plants and force large parts of the fleet—the U.S. power system workhorse—to shut down in the name of climate change. The EPA figures the rule will cost $9.6 billion, which is a gross, deliberate underestimate.

In return Ms. Jackson says the public will get billions of dollars of health benefits like less asthma if not a cure for cancer. Those credulous enough to believe her should understand that the total benefits of mercury reduction amount to all of $6 million. That’s total present value, not benefits per year—oh, and that’s an -illion with an "m," which is not normally how things work out in President Obama’s Washington.

The rest of the purported benefits—to be precise, 99.99%—come by double-counting pollution reductions like soot that the EPA regulates through separate programs and therefore most will happen anyway. Using such "co-benefits" is an abuse of the cost-benefit process and shows that Cass Sunstein’s team at the White House regulatory office—many of whom opposed the rule—got steamrolled.

As baseload coal power is retired or idled, the reliability of the electrical grid will be compromised, as every neutral analyst expects. Some utilities like Calpine Corp. and PSEG have claimed in these pages that the reliability concerns are overblown, but the Alfred E. Newman crowd has a vested interest in profiting from the higher wholesale electricity clearing prices that the EPA wants to cause.

Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is charged with protecting reliability, abnegated its statutory responsibilities as the rule was being written.

One FERC economist wrote in a March email that "I don’t think there is any value in continuing to engage EPA on the issues. EPA has indicated that these are their assumptions and have made it clear that are not changed [sic] anything on reliability . . . [EPA] does not directly answer anything associated with local reliability." The EPA repeatedly told Congress that it had "very frequent substantive contact and consultation with FERC."

The EPA also took the extraordinary step of issuing a pre-emptive "enforcement memorandum," which is typically issued only after the EPA determines its rules are being broken. The memo tells utilities that they must admit to violating clean air laws if they can’t retrofit their plants within the EPA’s timeframe at any cost or if shutting down a plant will lead to regional blackouts. Such legal admissions force companies into a de facto EPA receivership and expose them to lawsuits and other liabilities.

The economic harm here is vast, and the utility rule saga—from the EPA’s reckless endangerment to the White House’s failure to temper Ms. Jackson—has been a disgrace. 

Indiana Could be Factor in GOP Primary

Whether in support of Romney, Gingrich, or even Paul, Indiana Republicans and primary crossovers could play a key role in deciding who the 2012 GOP presidential nominee will be. The Times of Northwest Indiana reports how:

The early presidential caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will be the center of the Republican Party’s world next month, but Indiana’s May 8 primary could prove more important.

Republican Party rule changes, penalties for early primary states, and candidates with enough money and supporters to remain in the race may all combine to give Indiana Republicans a taste of the campaign fun Democrats enjoyed in 2008.

Gov. Mitch Daniels is among the Hoosier Republicans rooting for a drawn-out nominating process.

"One can conjure a scenario … that might lead to a situation that’s still in play when May gets here, and that’d be terrific," Daniels said. "I thought it was so great when it mattered on the Democratic side last time."

Republicans changed their rules for awarding convention delegates last year hoping to capture the excitement Democrats had as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battled for months to win the nomination in 2008.

As a result, most early primary states in 2012 will award convention delegates proportionately, based on a candidate’s share of the state’s primary vote, instead of winner-take-all.

In addition, five states that moved their primaries to before March 1 were penalized by the GOP and lost half their delegates.

That means the minimum 1,142 delegates needed for nomination won’t be selected until March 24 and no candidate is likely to win every one of them, putting later primary states with a lot of delegates, such as Indiana’s 46, in play.

Jesse Benton, campaign manager for Ron Paul, said the Texas congressman will strategically compete for delegates throughout the primary process.

"Our campaign has a comprehensive plan to win the delegates needed to either secure the nomination or enter into a brokered convention in Tampa," Benton told POLITICO.

The last time a Republican convention opened without the front-runner in control of enough delegates to win the nomination was 1976 when Ronald Reagan tried to wrest the GOP nomination from President Gerald Ford. Ford lost in the general election that year to Jimmy Carter.

Daniels, who briefly considered running for president earlier this year, believes a brokered convention might not be all bad, even though intra-party fights tend to turn off undecided general election voters.

"At a time when the country is facing just terribly consequential issues, if it led to a good healthy debate about not merely personalities but about what kind of program of change to bring to America, I could convince myself it’s not the worst outcome," Daniels said.

The term-limited governor said he won’t be throwing his hat in the ring at a brokered convention, but he’d enjoy watching it.

"I’ve always said the greatest spectator sport, forget the Super Bowl, if either party ever had a truly deliberative convention in the mini-camera world, it would be spectacular," Daniels said.

Not all Republicans believe the nomination will be up in the air when their convention begins Aug. 27.

Schererville Republican Dan Dumezich, who is leading Mitt Romney’s Indiana campaign, is confident the former Massachusetts governor will have the nomination locked up.

"I think we’re going to have an answer a lot sooner than most people think," Dumezich said. "I’m hoping we have one by January 31."

Brinegar: Focus Shines on Right-to-Work

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar explains how passing a right-to-work law will help enhance Indiana’s economy by attracting many new companies that currently won’t consider the state, according to site selection agencies. He also lays out the facts about right-to-work, noting how it does nothing to prevent unions from organizing; it just means workers won’t be forced to join to keep their jobs.  

Bosma, Torr: Time is Now for Right-to-Work

More than 100 Indiana Chamber members "tuned in" Friday to hear the latest on right-to-work from Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Rep. Jerry Torr. After the latest in our monthly Policy Issue Conference Calls, one had to be impressed with the leaders on this critical issue, their strong knowledge of the facts and their dedication to setting Indiana apart from its competitors.

Bosma addressed some of the myths out there about RTW:

  • Myth: It’s an attempt to destroy unions. Fact: "I carried a similar bill in 1995 that passed that was basically right-to-work for teachers" and no one can argue about the ongoing strength of the Indiana State Teachers Association.
  • Myth: Wages will drop: Fact: One must adjust for cost of living and real purchasing power to accurately compare states. When doing so, workers in right-to-work states win.
  • Myth: Hoosiers don’t want RTW. Fact: No matter the demographic, support for RTW is strong. Young people, in particular, regardless of political affiliation, favor the move by a 3-to-1 margin.

Torr adds that many opponents simply don’t understand what the bill does. When the opportunity to explain presents itself, the viewpoint often changes.

The bottom line is all about jobs. Bosma: "Despite all we’ve done in the last decade to make Indiana a job creation hub, we still have 9% unemployment and that’s just the official number. People are removing themselves from the search and others hold two part-time jobs and that doesn’t show up in the numbers. The simple, single reason is the need for jobs."

Another benefit, Torr explains, is the border effect. Indiana would be the only RTW state that would have non-RTW neighbors on every border. The others would likely move quickly to try and adopt RTW, but Indiana would have the definite advantage.

The two legislators urge business leaders and employees to contact their legislators and let them know their support. Legislators knowing that they have the backing of their constituents in taking this important step could ultimately decide whether this important initiative becomes a reality.

Need more information? Check out our new web site — and get involved!

Does Wisconsin Illustrate Fading Role of Unions?

Wisconsin public sector unions don’t like the rules that emerged from a legislative battle earlier this year. As a result, many failed to file for recertification. A professor and former legislator terms it: "Welcome to the future Wisconsin." Stateline reports:

Major unions in Wisconsin have opted to allow their official collective bargaining status to lapse rather than file for “recertification” under controversial new rules enacted earlier this year.

The decision raises serious questions about the relevance of state workers’ unions in Wisconsin politics and governance. Wisconsin has long been a union stronghold — and was in fact the first state to require collective bargaining for state workers. That changed when Republican Governor Scott Walker and the state legislature re-wrote bargaining rules, triggering protests that captured national attention for weeks.

The new law allows unions to retain official collective bargaining status if they undergo an annual vote of represented workers to determine that they still want the union to represent them in formal talks with the state. That’s a high hurdle. For one thing, holding an annual election is an expensive proposition for a union. And in order to prevail, unions must receive votes from a majority of represented workers, not just a majority of the votes cast.

The deadline to recertify passed last week. While some small unions filed paperwork, unions representing the majority of state workers allowed the deadline to pass without filing with the state as required by the new law.

“I think the passing of the deadline was a major moment and now we can say, ‘Welcome to the future Wisconsin,’” Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and former state legislator, told Reuters.

The decision not to subject themselves to the recertification process indicates that unions are betting that, under the new rules of the game, the costs of collective bargaining may outweigh the benefits. Those unions that do successfully pass the recertification test will only be able to negotiate over salary increases to keep pace with inflation — they can’t negotiate over not workplace conditions, benefits or more significant salary bumps, as they could before. At the same time, the resources available to state unions have diminished because unions are no longer allowed to take automatic deductions from represented workers’ paychecks. All contributions are voluntary.

The Associated Press reports that while union leaders have refused to say how many members are voluntarily continuing to pay dues, layoffs of union staff have already begun. The Wisconsin Education Association Council, the statewide teachers union, has laid off 42 people — 40 percent of its staff.

Death Does Not Mean Parting From Government Payments

When the first line of the story reads: "The federal government pays out millions to dead people each year," you know you are on to something. In this case, something is continued annuity payments to federal workers who have moved on to the ultimate retirement in the sky.

And when the dollar amount is more than $600 million in five years, we’re talking about more than a few mistakes. The Washington Post has the story; here’s a recap.

Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland, who previously reported on the improper payments in 2005 and 2008, urged the Office of Personnel Management to more closely track such mistakes.

“It is time to stop, once and for all, this waste of taxpayer money,” he wrote in the report.

Improper payments to dead retirees increased 70 percent in the past five years, far higher than the 19 percent climb in overall annuity payments, the report said.

The payments are on the rise because OPM is doing a poor job of tracking potential cheats, McFarland said. In one case, a deceased annuitant’s son continued receiving federal benefits until 2008 — 37 years after his father’s death. OPM learned about the improper payments — which exceeded $515,000 — only after the son died. The agency never recovered the money.

Last October, an investigation by the office of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) concluded that the government had paid nearly $1 billion to at least 250,000 dead people since 2000. That same month, a watchdog group reported that the Obama administration’s economic stimulus program had made 89,000 payments of $250 each to dead or incarcerated people. 

Gov. Daniels Visits Jon Stewart

I’m a big fan of "The Daily Show." I watch every episode, in fact. So I was pretty enthused to see the governor of our great state on the program last night. Mitch Daniels appeared to promote his new book, "Keeping the Republic" — and was asked some pointed questions about his economic philosophies. So how do you think he did?

Interview: Part I

Extended: Part II

Extended: Part III

Brinegar: Time is Now for Right-to-Work

In light of this summer’s legislative Interim Study Committee meetings, Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar explains why the Chamber is advocating for a right-to-work law. Brinegar notes that Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce and site selection agencies across the country assert 40% of companies won’t consider relocating to states without right-to-work laws.